La Jolla liquor store sign is the talk of the town


By Dave Schwab

It may be a sign of the times, but most La Jollans who’ve glimpsed the huge downpointing sign at 7402 La Jolla Blvd. are hoping it’s not a sign of things to come.

The appearance late last week of the huge red marker on a liquor store, that reopened recently after being closed since an electrical fire caused extensive smoke damage to it on April 12, 2010, had heads turning — and tongues wagging.

“The sign in the front with its red color waiting to put lights on it looks like it’s pointing the way straight to hell,” quipped Realtor Peter Corrente adding, “It’s completely out of character with the community.”

“It drew a lot of concern,” agreed Tony Crisafi, president of La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) which makes land-use recommendations to the city. He added, “I guess there will be some discussion about it at tomorrow night’s (LJCPA) meeting.”

Architect Laura Ducharme Conboy, an LJCPA trustee and member of the Development Permit Review subcommittee that reports to it, described her initial reaction to the arrow marker.

“I saw it from way down the street and said, ‘My gosh, that’s huge — and ugly.’ ”

She spent an hour recently on the phone with the city’s Development Services Department trying to determine if the sign violates any local sign ordinances.

“It’s not supposed to be higher than the top of the parapet (wall) of that building, which has a flat roof, and it clearly is taller than that,” she said adding, “I haven’t done the calculations, but it also may be well in excess of the total signage area allowed for a commercial establishment.”

Ione Steigler, chair of the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance (PDO) Committee, a subgroup of the LJCPA which makes recommendations on signage and related issues to the parent body, said she’s received numerous e-mails from residents complaining about the sign. But she added her group “reviews items that come before us that are in the permit process.” It appears, in this instance, she added, that the permitting process may have been sidestepped.

“It’s really a neighborhood compliance issue,” she said.

“There is no permit,” said Duke Fernandez, land development investigator for the city’s Development Services Department’s Neighborhood Code Compliance Division about the liquor store sign adding, “I haven’t paid them a visit yet but I’m planning to. I’ll give them a chance to remove it, and if they don’t, I’ll issue a citation.”

Fernandez said he’ll give the business notice that they’re in violation and 30 days time to remove the sign. If they don’t comply, he can cite them with a penalty of $500 to $1,000 range. “I’d probably issue a $1,000 citation to get quicker results,” he said. “But I’ll appeal to their sense of reason. I’d rather put them into a permit process and get them a sign that they can have.”

Because the arrow sign is “hanging over the public right of way,” Fernandez said the business would probably need to get an encroachment permit for it as well. He said there may be other problems.

“They might be maxed out on their signage. A big giant sign like that, I don’t know for sure.”

The owners of La Jolla Liquor were not immediately available for comment.

LJCPA will meet Thursday, Nov. 3 at 6 p.m. at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.