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Change just sign of time

March 31, 2005

Alicia Robinson

You should still be able to find the nearest Starbucks, your favorite

boutique or The Crab Cooker, even after the city finishes overhauling

its sign code.

But the city likely will shrink the maximum size limits for most

types of signs, and other changes are planned to bring signs in

Newport into the 21st Century.

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"Our sign code citywide is really old," Newport Beach assistant

city manager Sharon Wood said. "We permit bigger signs than they do

on Beach Boulevard in Huntington Beach and maybe on Harbor Boulevard

in Costa Mesa."

Since last fall, the city has held several public workshops --

including two last week -- to get input on how to update the sign

code, which was last rewritten in 1998. Proposed changes include

reducing the permitted size of signs, new requirements for so-called

"cabinet" signs that are lighted from inside, and a ban on roof signs

and old-fashioned pole-mounted signs.

Some exceptions will be allowed by the new code. For example, in

Mariner's Mile, most of the buildings are set back from the road, so

small, low signs would be hard for people driving by to see, Wood

said.

While some people said they thought the cabinet signs look tacky,

they may be more affordable for small businesses, so the city is

proposing to tighten the guidelines to make those signs look nicer.

Once the city prohibits pole and roof signs, they can require those

that already exist be taken down after 15 years.

But the new code also includes a provision for "heritage signs"

that have been around for years and are widely recognized by

Newporters, such as the fish atop The Crab Cooker sign on the

peninsula.

"That's just dear to the community," Wood said.

While not many people have expressed strong feelings about the

sign code, business leaders in Corona del Mar have been involved from

the beginning because they've also been working on a villagewide

face-lift. One element of that -- landscaped medians on the Coast

Highway -- is just getting started.

"Our main concern is that we have all kinds of different

beautification programs that we've developed, urging people to

upgrade their business storefronts," said Linda Leonhard, executive

director of the Corona del Mar Chamber of Commerce.

"Just to kind of represent the quaint village atmosphere, it would

be wonderful to see the signs change along with that," she added.

After one more pass through a committee that's working on the sign

code, the revisions will go to a public hearing by the Planning

Commission in May.

* ALICIA ROBINSON covers government and politics. She may be

reached at (714) 966-4626 or by e-mail at alicia.robinson

@latimes.com.

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