During the Jan. 20 Planning Commission meeting, the commissioners voted 6-1 to approve a sign ordinance for City Council that includes the prohibition of commercial signs that entice the highway.
The proposal states “Not allowing freeway-oriented signs and signs larger than 64 square feet will reduce distraction to drivers and increase safety on our local streets and freeways.”
A major retailer who has filed applications for freeway-facing signs is Steve Craig, the CEO of Craig Realty and owner of the Outlets at San Clemente. The mall opened in November with no signage that faced the freeway.
Current signs that engage the freeway will have to be completely removed in 25 years.
The ordinance also requires that if 50 percent of a nonconforming sign that is grandfathered is altered or changed, it must be brought into compliance with the current ordinance.
“It won’t be instantaneous removal, but allowing them to stay for another 25 years…that time frame of removal will be discussed at that time,” Associate City Planner Sean Nichols said.
The removal of the freeway signs was first made a priority for planning staff by City Council. The definitions defined in the ordinance make a distinction between “freeway-oriented” and “freeway visible.” Freeway visible are signs that are seen from the freeway but are not necessarily means to attract motorists from the freeway to the business like freeway-oriented signs.
Business owners spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting and urged the commission not to infringe on their right to promote their businesses.
Planning Commissioner Zhen Wu said he did not vote in favor because of the 25-year grace period, but other than that he was in favor of it.
San Clemente City Council will examine the ordinance at a future meeting, likely to be discussed next month.