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News, City Council, Santa Monica, Schools

Santa Monica City Hall May Lift Animated Sign Ban For Safety, Schools

Posted Sep. 9, 2013, 9:16 am

Parimal M. Rohit / Staff Writer

Take a look around Santa Monica and you would be hard pressed to find an animated sign along any of the City’s streets. Under City law, such signs are prohibited. At Tuesday's City Council meeting, Santa Monica’s elected panel might  create an exception to the law in order to allow use of animated signs for public safety purposes, schools, and traffic circulation.

Though City Hall and some schools have already used these signs in the past, their respective uses were not legally recognized.

“The proposed ordinance would amend the Sign Code to legalize the use of animated signs for traffic circulation and public safety purposes, a specific type of signage regulation that is supported by First Amendment case law,” City staff stated.” Additionally, staff proposes an amendment that would allow primary and secondary schools to use animated signs for school purposes.”

City Hall had previously used animated signs “to direct traffic and minimize congestion” while schools used them “to apprise the community about school operation and events.”

Santa Monica’s Sign Code had regulated signage within city limits “in order to promote aesthetic and environmental values and protect traffic safety, while allowing ample opportunity for communication.”

First Amendment rights would remain protected under the Sign Code, even with the new ordinance should it be adopted. Under First Amendment law, City Hall is allowed to regulate “the place and manner” of sign-related communication “to avoid visual blight, decrease the risk of accidents caused by distraction and confusion, and preserve the City’s desirability as a place to live, work and visit.”

According to City staff, animated signs are defined as signs with “any visible moving part, flashing or oscillating lights, visible mechanical movement of any description, or other apparent visible movement achieved by any means.”

City staff added the ordinance, if adopted, would amend Santa Monica’s Sign Code to exempt roadway signs “used to protect traffic circulation and public safety from the prohibition against animated signs.”

The proposed ordinance would also apply to Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District campuses.

There is a question of how the proposed ordinance would apply to private schools, as they are not “state entities” and the regulation in front of council members next week might clarify this issue.

One private school has requested uses of an animated sign “to notify the community of school events, the school calendar, and other matters related to their educational mission.”

The proposed ordinance reads: “primary and secondary schools may utilize animated signs on school property for school purposes.”

“Whether private schools should be authorized to use animated signs is mainly a policy question for Council,” City staff stated. “There is some legal risk because creating an exemption for schools communicating school-related information could be seen as regulation based on content. On the other hand, arguably all schools in the community should have similar opportunities.

“And, all schools, both public and private, fulfill vital functions in the City that are crucial to the City’s success and the public welfare. Signage that allows the City’s schools to communicate with the community about their work is good for the schools and is therefore also good for the community,” City staff continued.

Council members will deliberate the ordinance Sept. 10. Should the ordinance receive a majority vote next week, it would return to the council for a second reading two weeks later.

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Comments

Sep. 9, 2013, 9:49:12 am

Judy Neveau said...

City staff seems to have has forgotten that many of the schools are in R-1 neighborhoods. These "animate signs" are of extreme brightness during the evening and night hours and are an intrusive, undesireable, and commercial encroachment.

Sep. 11, 2013, 12:53:36 pm

Stefani Uhler said...

It's not really true one would be hard press to find animated signs. Just now, 12:45 pm Pluralistic #1 Private School has their animated sign on. It is large, it is still unlawful but there it is- in all it's glory! I dont know why this school gets to do what it does over the years build without permits, build with expired permits, have premium decaited parking spaces on the street ( even when they are not open), take residential parcels, ask for neighborhood support and viola an obnoxious play ground instead of the outdoor study//meditation field area a R3 residential neighborhood. They break every California traffic law during their Drop-Off and Pick-Up, their parents double park, block driveways etc etc etc. They should really use their animated sign and just write- Thank you to the City of Santa Monica for letting us do what we want! I cant write the rest....

Sep. 9, 2013, 10:01:39 pm

Stefani Uhler said...

The glaring, mega, eye-level “animated sign” used by private elementary school Pluralistic #1 (Euclid/ Broadway) operated brightly into the night and on weekends. After, neighborhood complaints, photographs and citing existing laws did the little school turned off their signs during the night and weekends. I guarantee you the school's population is not around to read this "news" at 10 pm or on the weekends! The school’s pick up and drop off , which block driveways, streets and intersections, the idling cars occupied with cell phone and texting drivers, the pedestrians crossing, the additional traffic from Colorado and more cyclists on the road makes reading the “animated sign” - dangerous. The SMMUSD signs are elevated and well, small compared to this little private school's intrusive “animated sign”. In fact the "animated sign" and their other lit signs gives local businesses, Santa Monica Place and Santa Monica Pier signage a run for their money. The City Staffer must have a student there!

Sep. 10, 2013, 8:29:34 am

misa said...

Please do not use animated signs.

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