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Lawndale wants to restrict human sign twirlers, ban costumes

December 6, 2012 |  2:51 pm

A sign-spinner tries to catch the eyes of passing motorists along Hollywood Boulevard in this 2008 photo. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

They twist and twirl colorful signs by the side of the road -- sometimes while dancing and wearing costumes -- all in an effort to attract customers to businesses.

But that may soon end, at least in Lawndale, where city leaders are considering new regulations that would restrict where and how human sign holders advertise for businesses.

Town officials say sign holders are a safety hazard because they distract motorists. They are also concerned that the costumes prevent sign holders from being aware of their surroundings.

At a council meeting on Monday, officials discussed the proposed restrictions, which would force  sign-holders to stand 12 feet away from intersections. No more than six sign-holders per business would be able to operate at the same time, and costumes might be outlawed, according to the Daily Breeze

Melanie Johnston, the manager of South Bay Coin near Hawthorne Boulevard and 169th Street, said the restrictions are ridiculous and will cause job losses.

"Anything could be a distraction; a pretty girl walking is a distraction or someone dressed uniquely is a distraction," she said in a phone interview Thursday. "It's all smoke and mirrors."

In the three years her employees have been standing outside with signs, there have been no accidents or complaints from citizens.

Johnston believes the men dressed in costumes are protected by free-speech laws.

"I feel if someone wants to put a gorilla costume or put on a chicken costume, they have that right," she said. "It's their constitutional right."

The city manager in Lawndale could not be reached for comment. The council is scheduled to vote on the new ordinance next month. If approved, Lawndale will join dozens of towns across the U.S. that have either outlawed human sign holders or have restricted that form of advertising.

[For the record, 5:34 p.m. Dec. 6: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Melanie Johnston as the owner of South Bay Coin. She is its manager.]

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-- Ruben Vives
twitter.com/latvives

 Photo: A sign-spinner tries to catch the eyes of passing motorists along Hollywood Boulevard in this 2008 photo. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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