Which way to signs?

Newport Beach commerce leaders want "wayfinding" signs so visitors won't miss out, but the City Council has delayed funding for the second year.

July 01, 2010|By Mike Reicher,

When tourists pop into the Shore House Café near the Balboa Pier they're often confused. Are we on Balboa Island? Which way is San Diego?

Bartender Brianne Parmeter, 26, directs them, she says, and does her best to convert their inquiry into a dinner sale.

But tourism leaders and others in the business community think they can streamline the process. They want to install signs around the city that point to the big attractions and little neighborhoods, helping visitors get to their destinations faster. Now, 10 years after they started planning, the signs are ready to be built and installed, but city council members voted to delay funding.

"We're trying to help visitors to the community find their destination, so they're not wasting time driving around instead of enjoying lunch or a cocktail," said Richard Luehrs, president of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, who has helped plan the program. He's perturbed it was postponed. "Make budget cuts to things that don't have an impact on the local economy," he said.


There would be 68 signs around the city pointing to places like Balboa Island, Crystal Cove, Fashion Island and public institutions such as libraries and City Hall.

"Any time we can get people to more parts of Newport Beach, it will hopefully increase their chance to spend more money," said Gary Sherwin, president of the Newport Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau. He likes the proposed signs because they blend in with the city's aesthetic qualities, he said.

The oval boards sport a blue background with white type and gold trim, hanging about 17 feet from the ground. People can already see them around town; in a pilot project starting in 2005 the city installed 22 signs. Most of those are on the Balboa Peninsula, pointing to places such as the two piers.

Some of them, after years of delayed funding, now hang cockeyed or are covered by overgrown trees. For the past two fiscal years the City Council has either withdrawn funding or voted to keep the project offline.

Economic development officials envision replacing the hodgepodge of signs throughout the city. Many are as small as a no-parking sign and their colors vary — from green with white type to blue with white type.

"They have just gone up over time as various business and institutions have requested them," said Assistant City Manager Sharon Wood. "The point is we'll get rid of all the ones that don't match and people can't figure out."

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