New signage program concerns

I’m not opposed to new signage if it reduces the number of signs citywide. It’s uncertain that the new signage does that. It wasn’t a stated goal of the Staff Report. My main objection is that the process used has been closed to citizens.

The signage program started with the Chamber and City govt: “We have a two-year Economic Development Action Plan that was developed by the City Council Economic Development/Business Assistance Subcommittee in collaboration with the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and Visit Laguna Beach” (Excerpted from the City’s website)

In 2016, I was informed a member of this Subcommittee that between 250 and 750K would be budgeted for the signage program. It was a done deal, they said. At last week’s Planning Commission Meeting (safe to say that most Commissioners were befuddled) we learned that this «Disneyland» like signage, color coded to each Business District, (red for downtown) along with the recommendation that benches and trash cans be color coordinated is the recommended proposal of the Steering Committee for this project.  The Steering Committee consisted of two-member of the City Council. City Staff, Arts Commission, Planning Commission, Chamber of Commerce, and Visit Laguna. No Citizens!!

Having two-member of the City Council assures only one additional vote of approval is needed. The Planning Commission was not given the choice of rejecting the Pilot Program for this project, only advised to make comments and suggestions.

So who on the City Council would likely be the third vote?  Council member Steve Dicterow. His campaign manager was on the Subcommittee.  Larry Nokes, President of the Chamber of Commerce who is one of the main supporters of signage program is a friend and huge supporter of Mr. Dicterow. It’s highly unlikely that Mr. Dicterow would vote against the interests of two of his closest confidant’s friends and supporters or recuse himself. In the unlikely event he does, would Kelly Boyd vote no?

A democratic process was not followed! Are we surprised? Not one citizen was on the Steering Committee. The City seemingly has no confidence in its Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee. What about non-profit organizations who advocate for walking and biking, like Transition Laguna or Laguna Streets? Are there no qualified persons on any of these organizations that could have provided a voice for citizens?

I urge the City Council to do the right thing and reject the Pilot Program. The Staff Report claims that the new signage is for residents and will, “enhance the customer experience for residents in a way that visitors also enjoy.  If it’s for residents why weren’t we informed or involved in the process?

If you don’t want Laguna to look like Disneyland please express your concerns on April 18at 6 p.m. at the City Council Meeting. Approval of the signage Pilot Program will be assured if your voice isn’t heard. 

George Weiss

Laguna Beach