Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, March 20 @ 3:19 p.m.

Crescent City Council Asks Staff to Ease Restrictions On Sandwich Board Signs

Crescent City councilors are asking staff to relax regulations governing sandwich board signs. | Photo: Artaxerxes, via Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons License

Though it took more than a year to get to them, Crescent City councilors on Monday sent an ordinance back to staff telling them to ease restrictions on sandwich board and wind sail signs.

Wanting to be as business friendly as possible, councilors asked staff to allow proprietors to obtain over-the-counter permits for sandwich board signs and sail pennants promoting their businesses.

There would be stipulations on how many and where those signs can be located — they couldn’t block pedestrian access on sidewalks, for example. But councilors said they didn’t want business owners to have to renew their permits after a certain number of days.

“I want our businesses to be able to say they’re open or they have a special or whatever it is,” Councilwoman Kelly Schellong said. “I don’t want it to block the sidewalk and cause people to not be able to get through — no ADA issues, things like that — but I want local businesses to be able to ask people to come in their front door.”

Schellong and her colleagues also briefly flirted with the idea of not requiring an encroachment permit for sandwich board signs.

Public Works Director David Yeager disabused them of that notion by telling them about a new business whose owner put out seven sandwich boards. The city received a complaint saying those sandwich boards were in odd places.

“If they weren’t required to get an encroachment permit, then what stops them from doing that? Just keep that in the back of your mind,” Yeager said, adding that he met with the business owner and told him he needed a permit to put those signs in a city right-of-way. “They had to get an encroachment business within their place of business. They couldn’t put [the signs] in front of the park service building and couldn’t put them in front of other businesses that weren’t related to them.”

Another merchant allowed the business owner in question to place a sign in front of their shop. And instead of placing seven signs throughout the downtown area, Yeager said, that business owner whittled it down to three.

Without an encroachment permit, however, there are no limitations, which would make things harder on staff, Yeager said.

“This is really a complaint-based ordinance, and that’s how the system worked,” he said of the ordinance already on the books. “The gentleman came in that afternoon, filled out an encroachment permit and left and was still allowed to maintain the signs.”

In February 2023, the City Council asked staff to review the current sign ordinance and work with planning commissioners to ease restrictions on wind sail banners. At the time, several businesses were using those banners, though the city prohibited them, according to the Council’s Feb. 20, 2024 staff report.

On Monday, Ethan Lawton, an SHN planner who’s contracted with the city, said the Planning Commission approved seven changes to the sign regulations. The first added a “not otherwise specified” category to sign types, which would serve as a catch-all until the sign ordinance is changed again.

The second revision removed a cap on the number of temporary sign permits any one business is allowed during the calendar year.

The third revision increases the time businesses can display grand opening signs from 30 days to 90 days. The fourth revision does the same for promotional signs, increasing the number of days businesses can display them from five to 30 days.

The fifth revision to the sign ordinance broadened the types of signs that can be used for temporary and seasonal sales.

The sixth revision addressed wind sail banners.

“That’s to allow wind-blown signs with a conditional use permit. Per the direction of the last Council meeting, what was discussed was to allow an administrative conditional use permit, AKA an over-the-counter permit,” Lawton said. “This [revision] would allow wind-blown signs with a use permit.”

The final revision allowed businesses to continue to use portable or temporary signs beyond grand openings and special promotions, but still prohibited sandwich board signs without a permit. However, that permit would only have been good for 90 days, according to Lawton.

The city’s original ordinance allowed business owners to use sandwich board signs with a permit only for grand openings or special promotions, he said.

Councilor Jason Greenough argued for removing the requirement for business owners to renew their sandwich board encroachment permit after three months.

“It’s hard enough to do business in California these days,” he said. “We need to make it as easy as possible for people to do business in our city.”

Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore noted that he would be fine with removing the renewal requirement for sandwich board sign encroachment permits as long as there was a prohibition on changing the sign’s width. He echoed Schellong’s comment about wanting to ensure pedestrians and those with disabilities could navigate city sidewalks unencumbered, noting that not all foot paths are created equal in Crescent City.

“I think having this as a permitted use is fine, but stipulations need to be for clear public access, and that’s going to be on staff to be able to make those evaluations,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Ray Altman lamented the time it took for the City Council’s original direction regarding wind sail signs to get from staff through the Planning Commission and back to him and his colleagues as an ordinance.

Despite Lawton’s Feb. 20, 2024 staff report stating that the Planning Commission had been deliberating changing the sign ordinance for about a year, the SHN planner on Monday said it was back in 2022 that the City Council directed staff.

Altman whinged further when City Manager Eric Wier said that because councilors were calling for further changes, the revised ordinance would need a further two readings before they could adopt it.

“It’s such a model of dysfunctional governing body to take two years to actually get specific [when] the original idea was to send it to the Planning Commission to make it more lenient,” Altman said of the revised ordinance. “And it’s taken two years to get to the spot where, ‘well, let’s really dig into these sandwich boards.’”

Altman said he was willing to agree to “whatever will resolve it” as long as it didn’t take another two years to finalize the new regulations.

Inscore argued that the time it took for the Council to get to a revised ordinance was a moot point. The question is if they think it’s good for businesses to be allowed to use sandwich board signs.

“I’m not passing any judgment against the Planning Commission, but they didn’t make that lenient to the point in the same way we have tried to do with the other signs,” Inscore said. “And so what we’re talking about is trying to be as business-friendly as we can, and that’s not what the Planning Commission sent to us and we think that we should do a little bit more.”

Greenough argued that the process takes time, and the goal is to ensure business owners have a level playing field.


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