About the Colony

Proposed sign ordinance will be good for Atascadero

During a tour in March 2015, Katie Banister, right, Alfredo Castillo and Sarah Wood from the Atascadero planning department discuss signs that are in violation of the city ordinance like this banner, left, on El Camino Real. The trio were out contacting businesses with temporary signage that was in violation in hopes of helping bring them into compliance.
During a tour in March 2015, Katie Banister, right, Alfredo Castillo and Sarah Wood from the Atascadero planning department discuss signs that are in violation of the city ordinance like this banner, left, on El Camino Real. The trio were out contacting businesses with temporary signage that was in violation in hopes of helping bring them into compliance. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Two weeks ago, I attended the Atascadero Planning Commission’s public hearing on the proposed new sign ordinance.

As many of you will attest, I have written ad nauseam about the city’s deplorable record of getting the business community to comply with sign regulations.

Much to its credit, the city literally took to the streets, going business to business to inform merchants of which signs are legal and which are not. The city even lowered the cost of getting a building permit for a sign.

So the city is trying. But there’s a small number of business owners who are fighting Atascadero’s cleanup efforts.

I mention all this to say that I was the only person at the commission meeting to listen to the highlights of the new sign ordinance and learn how it was being changed.

The Planning Commission recommended the ordinance be approved and sent to the council, but it’s discouraging that this issue is not getting the attention it deserves. People will have one more chance to weigh in, however, when the sign ordinance comes before the City Council this Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The sign ordinance has been cleaned up to make it an easy-to-understand document that should result in fewer nonconforming signs throughout Atascadero’s retail and industrial properties. At the outset, the new ordinance allows larger signs for businesses.

It outright bans certain signs, such as those that come in a tin box with internal lighting. The planning department staff felt Atascadero deserved better.

There was an interesting discussion about large murals. What was most interesting to me is that there is practically nothing that can be done to stop obnoxious murals from being painted on the side of buildings.

One commissioner was concerned about suggestive artwork on a public building that evidently can’t be stopped. It all becomes a freedom of speech issue, and community standards can’t necessarily be applied. I hope this public art issue is further discussed at the City Council’s public hearing Tuesday night.

There is a lot of good stuff in this new sign ordinance that benefits the individual businessman and, more importantly, the community itself.

When one commissioner asked about enforcement, there was not a clear answer coming from city staff or the rest of the panel.

That’s something to demand from the City Council.

Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 805-466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.

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