Sign clutter not likely to disappear from La Jolla landscape

By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

Yep, those ubiquitous A-frame signs scattered throughout La Jolla hawking everything from food to real estate are still hanging around.

Why doesn’t somebody do something about it?

The answer has a lot to do with the city’s financial crisis — most everything does these days — and lack of staffing for enforcement.

“The (city’s) Code Enforcement Department has been reduced to one person,” said La Jolla architect Ione Stiegler, who chairs La Jolla’s Planned District Ordinance committee, which is charged with ensuring rules and regulations regarding parking, signage, colors and materials used in building in La Jolla are adhered to.

“City Code Enforcement visited our committee a little over a year ago and basically told us it’s just him in the entire city and that, unfortunately due to the circumstances, he has to focus on life-safety code infractions, so signage issues are pretty low on his priority list.”

Also, Stiegler said, the PDO code was written so long ago that it sometimes doesn’t specifically address new types of signage, like flagpoles, considered by many to be visual clutter just like A-frames.

“Many of them (illegal signs) are actually stuck out in the public right-of-way where they’re not allowed to be,” Stiegler added.

Phil Coller, president of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA), the community’s new Business Improvement District that has been operating since spring, said he has received only one formal complaint about an A-frame sign on Pearl Street. But he added he has heard comments from local merchants concerned about getting their own signage in order.

“A couple of businesses have said to me they don’t think their own banners are nice, and are in the process of removing them,” Coller said. “These businesses are taking their own action without any complaint. They just felt as though it (signage) was not appropriate.”

Stiegler said A-frame sandwich boards used for advertising are unquestionably illegal under La Jolla’s ordinances that specify standards for allowable building colors and materials, signage, outdoor patios and the like.

Despite the fact that code enforcement is currently lacking with A-frames, Stiegler noted such signs “still are illegal and are discouraged.”

Stiegler estimated there are 100 or more A-frame signs, of all sizes and persuasions, scattered around town.

“Banners, pennants, flags, streamers, flairs, wind propellers, noise-making devices and other items shall not be permitted unless they are quality, corporation or institution flags, those displayed from freestanding or wall-mounted flagpoles, and may not exceed one sign for every 100 feet of store frontage or five flags per premises for holiday decorations … ,” said Stiegler, reading from La Jolla’s sign regulations.

She added inflatable signs are included in this category.

There is one other thing Stiegler shared about La Jolla PDO’s jurisdiction over signs:

“Our committee is not set up to be an enforcement committee. All we can do is what they (individual) can do, which is to bring it to the attention of code enforcement.”