Oceanside City Council bans digital signs, at least for now

OCEANSIDE — City Council overhauled its zoning ordnances to bring consistency to city rules, which previously had different regulations for the coastal, downtown and inland areas. Along with those changes the city sign ordinance was also updated on Sept. 16.

To bring uniformity to sign laws a 1986 article was repealed, a 1992 article was modified and a citywide ordinance to restrict digital signs was adopted.

City Council last looked at digital signs in May 2014, and continued the item to allow time to develop sign standards for LED, LCD and plasma displays.

At that time the Coastal Commission recommended the city prohibit billboards and digital signs in the coastal downtown area.

City Council implemented the Coastal Commission’s recommendations last Wednesday, and added the option to look at rules to allow small digital signs in the future.

City Council and staff recognize that there may be a business demand for digital displays of restaurant menus and general business information in the coming years.

Councilman Jack Feller said it is important to have regulations in place before current downtown development is finished.

“There are so many ways to advertise,” Feller said. “What we need to do is give them perimeters.”

City Council members also pointed out that some downtown businesses already display digital signs.

Interim City Planner Jeff Hunt said staff is in the process of speaking with sign industry experts, the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce and MainStreet Oceanside to identify business needs.

City staff said at this time there is not a business demand to have digital signs. The Chamber of Commerce and MainStreet are OK with the sign rule as is.

Large electronic billboards are allowed on city property along Interstate 5 and Routes 76 and 78. They are also permitted on sizable private property sites with city approval, such as Tri-City Medical Center and Ocean’s Eleven Casino.

There remains strong community opposition to electronic billboards by residents and environmental advocates.

The City Council voted against allowing one on state Route 78 and Rancho del Oro Drive in June.

Small digital signs have not received the same magnitude of objections.

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