The Del Mar City Council modifies sign requirements for the second time this year and extended an amnesty period to give owners more time to make the changes, which include an increase in the size of letters and logos. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
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Del Mar shows signs it is business friendly

DEL MAR — In an effort to help the business community, council members at the Nov. 16 meeting again modified sign requirements and extended an amnesty period to give owners more time to make the changes.

The Business Support Advisory Committee, or BSAC, was formed about a year ago to identify opportunities to improve city functions, review initiatives that affect the business community and suggest and prioritize ways the city could be more business friendly.

One of the group’s first efforts focused on improving signs and the rules that govern them in the downtown area.

Members recommended a new method for calculating sign size, allowing and regulating blade and A-frame signs and clarifying language in the existing code to make the process less confusing.

In June council approved the changes, which went into effect July 1 and included reduced fees and a six-month amnesty period — due to expire Dec. 31 — to obtain the required permits and encourage businesses to replace noncompliant signs.

As of Nov. 9 only 11 businesses submitted applications.

Following concerns raised at the October BSAC meeting, members suggested five recommendations that were presented to and approved by the City Council.

The amnesty period was extended to March 31, as was the $170, half-price sign review fee.

The review fee for signs that are compliant without the required permits will be waived, and four businesses that made the payment will be reimbursed.

The city will also make it easier and cheaper for businesses to change the size of the letters and logos on their signs.

Although the earlier changes increased the allowable sign area, letters and logos were still limited to 10 inches and 15 inches, respectively. Owners who wanted them bigger had to apply for a design review permit at a cost of $1,550.

Council agreed to change the process so larger letters and logos can be approved through the administrative sign review process rather than design review.

Because that will take four to six months business owners who want to increase the size of their logos or letters can do so by going through the design review process at a discounted rate of $340, which is what it will cost for an administrative review when the amnesty period ends.

The BSAC also requested better communication about sign requirements, the process, the schedule and resources.

Kristen Crane, Del Mar’s management services director, said more information has been added to the city’s signage web page, including frequently asked questions, the review application form and samples of allowable signs.

“This makes a lot of sense to just make those changes,” Councilman Terry Sinnott said. “We’re not hurting ourselves by allowing people to do it right, get their signs corrected and hopefully make better, higher-quality signs.

In other signage news, council members also adopted a resolution to ensure periodic updates of the pedestrian way-finding and directional signs installed by the Del Mar Village Association in 2009.

The DMVA is now required to review annually the content of the signs and determine whether the information is accurate and current. If more than 10 percent is inaccurate, the signs should be updated.

An update should occur at least once every 10 years. The city will have final approval over the content of the signs and the materials used to make the changes.