City goes after oversize signs

What started out as an effort to gradually downsize large business signs may end up shrinking those golden arches, along with other hallmarks of fast food chains across Glendale.

After tabling the matter in October, the Glendale City Council this week made its displeasure with the large pole signs known, and directed officials to come up with ways to force companies to remove them in accordance with city codes sooner, rather than later.

“It’s a matter of aesthetics,” said Councilman Ara Najarian. “These signs are something you see in East L.A.”

Under the first phase of the effort, Glendale would give businesses two years to comply with city size restrictions due to the protracted recession and high costs involved.

The signs — most of which are on West Glenoaks and Verdugo boulevards and Honolulu, La Crescenta and North Pacific avenues — are too big, according to city code. Some reach as high as 25 feet, with surface areas of up to 200 square feet, far larger than the 6- to 8-foot height limits. The city also restricts surface areas to between 40 and 75 square feet.

There are about 60 oversized signs in Glendale, but the proposed rule would affect about six businesses because the requirement to change would only kick in as owners attempt to amend the signage, according to the city. Businesses that don’t plan to change what their signs say any time soon — mostly corporate chains — won’t have to rip out their oversized structures.

That ruffled the feathers of some council members on the dais, who said the unintended exception for big businesses was unfair.

“These are long-term leases,” Councilman Frank Quintero said, referring to fast food chains such as McDonald’s and Jack in the Box. “It’s not fair to have them stay with their signs and yet the little mom-and-pop at the strip mall has to change theirs.”

Lucy Kasparian is a business owner who will likely get caught up in crackdown. Officials say the sign in front of her law office on West Glenoaks Boulevard is too large.

In addition to the cost of taking the sign down, Kasparian said she was fearful of what its removal could mean for her customer base.

“I’m not getting the walk-in traffic that I was before,” she said.

Councilman Rafi Manoukian agreed with a hard enforcement of the two-year period, saying he’d prefer to have a level playing field, but he still disagreed with the overall principal of the ban.

“We continually keep doing things in this city that are not beneficial to existing business,” Manoukian said.

To rid Glendale of all oversize pole signs, officials city would have to do a survey of all illegal signs, including marquees and those on walls.

It’s an onerous, state-mandated process meant to deter cities from requiring businesses to take out existing signs, said Principal Planner Wolfgang Krause. Billboards are also protected by state laws.

“You may always have the golden arches looking at you, saying we didn’t have to change,” said City Manager Scott Ochoa.

The council plans to review what it would take to get all the structures out at a future meeting. But first it will vote on the more limited two-year proposal.

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