City Council Report


City Council Meeting: February 26, 2013

Agenda Item: 7-D

To:               Mayor and City Council

From:           David Martin, Planning & Community Development Director

Subject:        Introduction and First Reading of an Ordinance to Amend SMMC Section 9.52.135 to Eliminate the Sunset Provision in this Section Which Permits Temporary Portable Signs in the Main Street Commercial District.


Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the City Council introduce for first reading an ordinance making permanent the provisions of Ordinance 2936 (CCS) that established a new permitted temporary portable sign type for properties located within the Main Street Commercial zoning district.


Executive Summary

Ordinance 2359 (CCS), considered for First Reading on May 10, 2011 and adopted by the City Council on May 24, 2011, modified the City’s Sign Code in response to the business community’s stated need to increase their identity through signage.  The Ordinance included a nine-month pilot program to allow the use of temporary portable signs by businesses located within the Main Street Commercial zoning district.  This pilot program was extended on March 27, 2012 and will expire on March 31, 2013 unless made permanent or extended by City Council. Staff has solicited feedback on the use of temporary portable signs from the Main Street Business Improvement Association, Inc. (a.k.a. Main Street Merchants Association) and from the City’s Code Compliance Division. The proposed ordinance would make these provisions permanent.




In response to Council direction at the November 10, 2009 meeting, City staff introduced an ordinance to address the expressed needs of the City’s business community for greater signage. Ordinance 2359 (CCS) was adopted by Council on May 24, 2011 and addressed many of the business owner’s concerns by:

·        Modifying the procedure for calculating sign area, an important consideration for irregularly shaped signs and encouraging creativity 

·        Expanding the use of projecting signs to all commercial areas Citywide

·        Expanding the use of attraction and reader boards without decreasing a business’s maximum amount of allowable signage

·        Re-defining the standards for the Residential Visitor Commercial (RVC) district (i.e. Santa Monica Pier and certain portions along Ocean Avenue) to be consistent with other commercial districts within the City.


The Ordinance also introduced a limited term pilot program that permits businesses located within the Main Street Commercial District to utilize a single portable sign to promote their respective business provided that it complies with the following requirements:

·       No larger than 10 square feet in size

·       Maximum of two sign faces with each face not to exceed 2 ˝ feet in width and four feet in height, or 20 square feet total maximum sign area

·       Sign to remain portable and not attached or anchored to any public or private property

·       Sign must be removed when the business is closed.


The pilot program was extended by Ordinance 2936 (CCS) and sunsets March 31, 2013 unless made permanent or extended by City Council. 



Staff recommends that Council make the provisions of the pilot program permanent.  Staff has solicited feedback from the Main Street Business Improvement Association, Inc. to help determine the merits of the additional signage.  Although only businesses with alcoves, building setbacks, and/or other open areas such as surface parking lots can take advantage of the provisions, and even though not all businesses that can put up portable signs do, the pilot program has received positive feedback.     The Code Compliance Manager has indicated that, to date, there have not been any associated or discernible compliance issues resulting from or related to the pilot program. Further, Code Compliance Inspectors have not seen a proliferation of illegal sign types or signs located in the public right-of-way as a result of the pilot program.  Due to efficiencies associated with overall enforcement efforts within the Main Street District, Inspectors have been able to address portable sign issues in the normal course of enforcement without an impact on Division resources. 


Based on the success of the pilot program, staff recommends that these provisions to allow temporary portable signs on private property within the Main Street District be made permanent. 


Although other Business Improvement Districts have not specifically requested that these provisions be expanded to their respective areas, discussions with the City’s Economic Development Division indicate that businesses within the Pico Boulevard Business Improvement District (BID) routinely cite the need for additional signage opportunities to enhance business.  Although the issue of signage has not been a specific topic of interest raised by the Montana Avenue BID, City representatives contend that individual businesses would likely support additional signage opportunities.    Staff feels that provisions to allow temporary portable signs on private property within the Main Street District would not be directly applicable to other commercial districts due to variances in the building setbacks, the number and location of surface parking lots, and different levels of visual clutter along the streetscape.



As an alternative to the recommended action introducing the proposed ordinance to make the provisions of the pilot program permanent, Council may elect to extend the interim ordinance again or allow the specified code provisions to expire, thereby prohibiting portable signs in the Main Street Commercial district and Citywide.


Environmental Analysis

The proposed ordinance would not change the substance of current City regulations; therefore, it has no environmental impacts.


Public Outreach

Notice of the proposed ordinance extension and the Council hearing was published in the Santa Monica Daily Press a minimum of 10 days prior to the hearing.


Financial Impacts & Budget Actions

The recommendation presented in this report has no budget or financial impact.


Prepared by:  Steve Traeger, Principal Urban Designer





Forwarded to Council:







David Martin, Planning & Community Development Department


Rod Gould

City Manager




A.    Proposed Ordinance making provisions of Ordinance 2936 (CCS) permanent.