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Glendale goes after oversized fast-food restaurant signs

January 30, 2012 |  7:02 am

 The city of Glendale is looking to crack down on fast-food restaurant signs that are too large and violate city restrictions.

The Glendale City Council has directed its staff to come up with ways to force companies to remove signs violating city codes, and sooner rather than later, the Glendale News-Press reported.

"It's a matter of aesthetics," said Councilman Ara Najarian. "These signs are something you see in East L.A."

Under the first phase of the effort, Glendale would give affected businesses two years to comply with city restrictions, due to the protracted recession and the high costs involved in changing signs.

The signs -- most of which are on West Glenoaks and Verdugo boulevards and Honolulu, La Crescenta and North Pacific avenues -- are too big, according to city code.

Some reach as high as 25 feet, with surface areas of up to 200 square feet, far larger than the city's 6- to 8-foot height limits. The city also restricts surface areas to between 40 and 75 square feet.

There are about 60 oversized signs in Glendale, but the proposed rule would affect about six businesses because the requirement to change would only kick in as owners attempt to amend the signage, according to city officials.

Businesses that don't plan to change what their signs say any time soon -- mostly corporate chains -- won’t have to rip out their oversized structures. That ruffled the feathers of some council members, who said the unintended exception for big businesses was unfair.

"These are long-term leases," Councilman Frank Quintero said, referring to fast-food chains such as McDonald's and Jack in the Box. "It's not fair to have them stay with their signs and yet the little mom-and-pop at the strip mall has to change theirs."

Lucy Kasparian said she is a business owner who will likely get caught up in crackdown. Officials say the sign in front of her law office on West Glenoaks Boulevard is too large. In addition to the cost of taking the sign down, Kasparian said she was fearful of what its removal could mean for her customer base.

"I'm not getting the walk-in traffic that I was before," she said.

Councilman Rafi Manoukian agreed with a hard enforcement of the two-year period, saying he'd prefer to have a level playing field, but he still disagreed with the overall principle of the ban.

"We continually keep doing things in this city that are not beneficial to existing business," Manoukian said.

To rid Glendale of all oversized pole signs, officials would have to do a survey of all illegal signs, including marquees and signs on walls. It's an onerous, state-mandated process meant to deter cities from requiring businesses to take out existing signs, said the city's principal planner, Wolfgang Krause.

Billboards are also protected by state laws.

"You may always have the golden arches looking at you, saying, 'We didn't have to change,'" said City Manager Scott Ochoa.

The council plans to review what it would take to get all the offending signs out at a future meeting, but will first vote on the more limited two-year proposal.

-- Brittany Levine, Times Community News