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City Could Loosen Signage Rules to Help Local Shops

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

November 17, 2009 -- The City’s tight restriction on signage could be altered in an effort to help struggling businesses. The City Council last week directed City staff to explore this option and return with a proposal by March.

Current City law prohibits most temporary and portable signs, including those that are free standing or “tacked, painted, posted or otherwise affixed on the walls of a building, or on a tree, pole, fence and other structure.”

Gary Gordon, executive director of the Main Street Business Improvement Association, told the council more flexibility on signage rules could be a great help toward boosting profits.

“There are so many businesses on the street that are just trying to make it week by week, month by month, and these kinds of signs help,” Gordon said.

Council member Kevin McKeown said City officials would have to be careful because even with the current rules, he sees “excess all the time.”

“I think that we have to look at this with the understanding that whatever the City Council does in terms of rules has to be something that we know has the capacity to be enforced citywide,” McKeown said.

Also at the meeting, council members gave their input on the redevelopment of downtown Parking Structure Six, located along 2nd Street. The building is being replaced to increase the number of parking spaces.

Most council members supported a structure with an underground portion. A majority said they would like some sort of retail or other use made available on the bottom floor. Also, they want an area to accommodate bicycles that would be more than an afterthought.

Bloom wants the structure to use “robotic technology,” which involves cars being parked in a pod. A device lifts the pod and places the vehicle in an available space. This technology is in its infancy.

The original plan was to redevelop both Structure Six and Structure One, located along 4th Street. But the council members agreed with City staff on a new proposal to deal only with Structure Six for now.

If it were determined a redesigned Structure Six could not provide enough additional spaces, either Structure One would be rebuilt or another structure would be constructed on recently purchased City land at 5th Street and Arizona Avenue.

City staff, with assistance from the consultant, will come back to the council with a concept design for Structure Six in the spring.

Additionally, council members gave their input on the Request for Proposals being issued for taxi franchises in Santa Monica. Council members said they want a local preference and companies with a variety of vehicles, including those that are environmentally friendly.

City staff will come to the council in April with franchise selections based on the RFP returns. The City will issue up to eight franchise licenses.

Lastly, the council approved two items to increase revenue for the City-owned Woodlawn Cemetery and Mausoleum.

The Council eliminated a rule that restricted burials to those who lived in the City. Also, it increased prices for burial and other services for the first time in more than 15 years.

Council member Robert Holbrook said he could not support the increases because they seemed too high. The new prices include $9,000 to $14,000 for a grave, $59,000 to $88,500 for a family estate and $3,000 to $4,500 for a cremation grave.

“I’ve got to pass on this one,” Holbrook said. “I’m just not there. I know we need to make improvements to the cemetery … But the high cost of it just personally staggers me.”

McKeown said he too found the prices to be high, but he said they are a necessity because the City has an obligation to maintain the facility for the thousands of families who buried their loved ones there.

“To be able to do that, we have to raise the rates to where we’re bringing in the revenue that makes the continuance of that cemetery and its maintenance in a state that people can be proud of when they go to visit their loved ones possible,” McKeown said.

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