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Battle of the sidewalk signs

Montrose business owners say the ads are needed amid down economy. City says rules are rules.

January 22, 2011|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com

Montrose Shopping Park merchants have been fuming after city officials cracked down on the use of sidewalk signs outside their storefronts.

The business owners say the clampdown will only compound the effects of the down economy.

"They need to wake up," said Jade Houston, owner of J. Lauren Hair Studio. "People need to do specials, and not all of us can afford major advertising."

A Glendale code enforcement officer late last week directed business owners in the Montrose Shopping Park to remove temporary banners, sandwich boards and other items from their entrances or risk being fined, business owners said.

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Enforcement of sign regulations has been in place for years, said John Brownell, senior neighborhood services supervisor.

"City ordinance prohibits signs on city property, as well as exterior portable signs for commercial establishments," Brownell said. "The requirements have been in place for a long time."

Tenants said it was the wrong way to be spending their tax dollars. Sandwich boards can help to catch customers' attention and draw them into the location, they said.

Cindy Redden, owner of Twigs and Things gift shop, said she likes to place decorative items in the breezeway at the entrance of her store. They do not obstruct the sidewalk and alert pedestrians that she is open, Redden said.

But last week she was told to bring those items inside.

"If it is not on the walkway, I don't see why we can't have it," Redden said.

Danielle Smith, owner of the Paper Rabbit, was forced to take down a pink banner announcing the shop's new website from her front awning. She refused to remove a matching banner from the rear awning.

"Look at how many vacancies are in Montrose, just right now on this block," Smith said. "[We have] never had this many … If the city of Glendale would like to keep the businesses going, why would they be sending somebody out patrolling the signs when they should be thinking about how the hell they are going to help their stores."

The laws are enforced equally throughout Glendale, Brownell said.

But city officials are sensitive to that fact that many local businesses are struggling during the current economic downturn, and are reviewing sign regulations, he added.

"Businesses are trying to take every opportunity to get as much visibility as they can and drum up as much business as they can, and we understand that," Brownell said.

Tom Samaha, who has owned Jane's Cakes and Chocolates since September 2009, said he understands that the city wants to protect the aesthetic appeal of the street, but they are hampering businesses from promoting themselves.

His shop is in a small courtyard in the 2300 block of Honolulu Avenue and is not easily visible from the street. He said he depends on a sandwich board in the shape of a three-tiered cake to attract customers.

The lease on the retail space is almost up, and Samaha said he is considering relocating.

"I don't really have a choice," he said. "If they want to bust my chops over signage, I will be out of business."

If business owners fail to comply with sign laws, they can be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 on second offense and $500 for the third offense, plus court fees, Brownell said. In rare instances the offending party has been charged with a misdemeanor.

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