Planning commission OKs update on city’s sign ordinance

OCEANSIDE — The Planning Commission approved a recommendation for City Council to update the city sign ordinance, but held off on making a decision to approve revenue-generating billboards on city property Jan. 23.

Updates to the sign ordinance will establish uniform citywide rules. Previously more liberal rules applied to the coastal and inland areas and more restrictive rules applied to the downtown area.

The updates include criteria to determine whether a sign is compatible with its surroundings, and the ban of any additional billboards in the city.

In considering electronic billboards and digital signs, an unofficial straw poll vote by the Planning Commission gave electronic billboards on private property a unanimous no, digital signs on private property an OK, and electronic billboards on city property a 5-2 OK, with Planning Commissioners Robert Neal and Tom Rosales voting no.

Banning of all feather signs also received unanimous support in the straw poll vote. Planning Commission members said the fabric feather signs that flutter from poles “cheapen” the look of the community. Some likened the look of the signs to flags that decorate car lots.

Speakers at the meeting expressed concern about sign blight. One chief concern was that proposed electronic billboards along highways and freeways are likely to cause distraction to drivers.

“It’s going to draw people’s attention as much as a comely woman disrobing on the side of the road,” Joan Brubaker, an Oceanside resident, said.

“I don’t want to be hit on the freeway by someone looking at a digital billboard and waiting for the message to change,” Kevin Brown, an Oceanside resident, said.

Speakers also opposed any increase in the number of signs and spoke favorably of reducing the number of billboards by replacing them with fewer shared digital signs in less-trafficked areas.

Commissioners shared the preference for fewer signs. They also favored the opportunity for the city to generate revenue through digital signs and electronic billboards.

“I, for one, don’t want any more billboards on (Interstate) 5 or (State Highway) 76,” Planning Commissioner Claudia Troisi said. “I want to trade them with digital ones and put them on city property.”

“I am an advocate of using electronic signage to increase the revenue stream,” Planning Commissioner Robert Ross said.

A public hearing will be held Feb. 13 to look at the item further.

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