La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) recently conceptually approved a controversial proposal to allow heretofore prohibited sandwich board signs in the Village's Public Right-of-Way (PROW).
The La Jolla Planned District Ordinance (PDO), the community's blueprint for development, presently forbids all sandwich boards, except those placed on private property.
The planning and zoning change is being championed by Claude-Anthony (CA) Marengo, current president of La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA) Business Improvement District (BID).
“The code does not currently allow for any sandwich boards, but it does allow for café seating,” said Marengo noting that, in the 20-year history of sandwich boards, “nothing has been done to correct the problem, and it continues to persist with new trends happening. Merchants not just putting up signs in front of one’s property, but putting signs on someone else’s property, or the public-right-of-way, to direct business to the merchant from a block or two away.”
Subsequently, Marengo said LJVMA asked the City’s Neighborhood Code Compliance office staff to enforce the ordinance.
“They were unable to do so,” he said. “The business owners claimed they have had the signs out for multiple years. The City recognized this was a special clause in the PDO that only exists in La Jolla vs. the other BIDs. So the City recommended we become the policing agency and they would help us as they could.”
Pointing out LJVMA “shouldn't be the police of our members,” Marengo added, “We decided to find a way to legalize the signage program in the PROW. We would like to give an amnesty period to comply with a sign program that would grant merchants a right through the PROW to let them exist without creating an obstacle to ADA regulations and or pedestrians, etc.”
Immediate reaction to the La Jolla PROW sandwich board proposal has been strong — both for and against.
Longtime La Jolla community planner and activist Joe LaCava said he supports sandwich boards in the PROW for two reasons.
“Sandwich boards improve the walkability of the Village; building signs are oriented to cars, the boards help pedestrians navigate the many stores, restaurants, and services we have in the Village,” LaCava said.
“Second, the new rules will allow the Village Merchants Association to regulate the size, appearance and location of the boards. Today, there is no enforcement, and their inconsistent appearance and placement are a detriment to the Village.”
Not every La Jollan agrees.
“Where have all our sidewalks gone?” asked Sally Miller, a member of La Jolla Parks and Beaches (LJPB), Inc. answering, “Gone to sandwich boards. Gone to dog dishes. Gone to flags and other 'scriggilers' (decorations).
“Gone to plants and planters. Unfortunately continuing to go to too many cigarette butts and other trash. And gone to sidewalk cafes — even if the restaurant has multiple other outdoor spaces within their building.”
Ann Dynes, another LJPB member, steered a more neutral course between the two extremes for and against sandwich boards.
“I have not been particularly involved in this issue but, as a resident, I support tastefully-done sandwich boards because I appreciate the problem of invisibility for many of the local businesses which are not storefronts on primary streets,” she said. “I do not see a need for them to be used by those operating at street level, and (those) visible to passing visitors.”
Marengo said those adamantly opposed to sandwich boards “haven’t walked La Jolla lately.”
“We have signs cluttering the sidewalks of all shapes and sizes and virtually everywhere; some are stacked end-to-end blocking entire sidewalks,” Marengo said. “Although it’s a nice thought and makes La Jolla classier to not have them, we have learned that La Jollans invest in these types of signs, because they feel it helps their business. We are here to support and represent them.”