OCEANSIDE — City Council updated its sign ordinance to prepare for trending digital billboard advertising.
Regulations for sign twirlers and feather signs, which are regulated under the same ordinance, were also discussed at the April 18 meeting.
Initial recommendations required each new digital sign to replace two current signs in order to reduce blight and driver distraction. It was noted that digital signs on city property have a potential to bring in significant revenues because of their capacity to display multiple advertisements.
The idea to reduce signs was nixed and council went in the opposite direction and OK’d adding four new billboards.
The change from reducing signs to increasing them came after discussions concluded that the city could be sued for lifting its ban on billboards, but restricting sign companies from participating by not allowing new billboards to be added.
“If I was ever to think this was a revenue producing activity that’s out the door,” Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said. “It’s a very real scenario of getting sued by these sign people.”
The OK to update the sign ordinance and add four billboards came in a 4-1 vote, in which Sanchez voted no.
The expectation is that new billboards will be digital and current billboards will soon become digital signs.
The OK gives the city control over the specifics of billboard placement, digital message dwell time, sign brightness and hours of lighted digital display. This includes spacing billboards 1,000-feet apart and requiring messages to have a minimum of a 4-second dwell time.
“Digital signs are coming — we’d like to have some control,” said Mayor Jim Wood.
Council also looked at the safety issues and esthetics of sign twirler mascots and feather signs. Both forms of signage were previously banned, but it was not enforced.
“Out of 650 members of the chamber, 95 percent said ‘keep the mascots,’ and 93 percent said ‘keep the feather signs,’” said David Nydegger, Chamber of Commerce CEO. “If you really want to find ugly, see a business with boarded outside windows and doors.”
Numerous business owners spoke of the benefit of using sign twirlers to drum up business.
“Ninety percent of customers said they came because they saw the sign,” Carl Hengar,
owner of Liberty Tax Service, said. “It’s a big part of our business.”
Hengar also said that safety has not been an on-the-job issue for sign twirlers.
“In 14 years, with 4,000 offices across the U.S., there hasn’t been one accident,” he said.
More than a dozen sign twirlers attended the city council meeting. Several spoke on how they valued their job.
Sign twirler Tanner Webb said he has been looking for full time work for two years. He added that the sign twirler job helps him get by month-to-month.
“It gives me a chance to make something of myself,” Webb said.
The council included legalizing sign twirling as part of the ordinance, with specific regulations to be brought back to city council in 90 days. Regulations will iron out the details of whether or not sign twirling can be done on public right of way.
Feather signs, which are 20-foot cloth advertising banners, will remain illegal until specific rules to regulate their use are brought back to city council in 90 days. City staff members said the city would not be enforcing the ban during the 90-day period in which the regulations are being developed.
Councilman Jerry Kern said feather signs present an eyesore when they are worn, tattered or cluttered together, but added that the city would look at how to regulate them to make them work for business advertising.
“We’re all out here trying to help businesses,” Kern said.