Santa Monica residents and visitors may see more banners being raised above streets and thoroughfares across the city as Council members unanimously approved a change to an ordinance allowing such banners to fly more frequently to promote the local economy.
The updated ordinance, which was addressed at the Sept. 13 council meeting, will now allow for the city to promote economic vitality programs such as the “Buy Local” campaign. In addition, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., will be allowed to advertise its recent name change from Bayside District Corporation.
“The proposed ordinance would modify the existing law to clarify the City’s authority to hang temporary banners for the purpose of promoting or calling attention to the City and its economic vitality,” Jennifer Taylor, a senior development analyst at City Hall, wrote in a staff report to council members last week. “This would help facilitate the promotion and celebration of initiatives such as Buy Local Santa Monica. The amendment would also reflect the recent change in name of Bayside District Corporation to Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.”
Previously, temporary banners could only aesthetic enhancement, celebration of holidays, or the promotion City-produced or co-produced events or activities.
Temporary banners promoting commercial activities, religious services and political events or issues were specifically prohibited unless they brought attention to activities of “general public interest.”
However, the group “Food Not Bombs sued the City of Santa Monica” with the banner ordinance directly challenged on First Amendment grounds.
With the case ultimately reaching the Ninth Circuit federal appeals court in 2004, Santa Monica’s decision to restrict banners “for the purpose of promoting City-produced or City co-produced events and activities” was upheld, maintaining a “court-approved distinction between government speech and private speech which depends on the government’s ownership and control of the message.”
In other words, according to staff, “the City and its agents (are allowed) to hang City banners on its streets, but does not allow banners that directly promote private interests.”
The council three years later considered another possible amendment to the ordinance, but no decisive action was taken then.
Now in 2011, council members unanimously supported an amendment to the Municipal Code that would allow the City to “hang temporary banners for the purpose of promoting or calling attention to the City and its economic vitality.”
According to staff, “banners are installed by approved contractors” and the production of an average over-the-street banner costs approximately $700.
Comparatively speaking, a vertical pole banner, on average, will cost the city between $60 and $100, depending upon size.
Banners are permitted for three weeks.
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