Businesses take advantage of new flexible sign ordinance

Street maintenance isn’t the only improvement being made to Claremont’s newly relinquished portion of Foothill Boulevard. While some changes to historic Route 66 are taking place underfoot, other changes are taking place over head in the form of elevated, multicolored promotional signs.

The Old School House complex received a recent upgrade with the installation of 2 multi-tenant monument signs, each an estimated 12 feet tall. The lofty signs have gathered attention in recent weeks as changes in the city’s sign ordinance are finally realized.

The Old School House isn’t the only city shopping center receiving a monument upgrade. The Sprouts Shopping Center is the next business complex to add some new signage with a 13-foot multi-tenant signpost going up soon. Others may soon follow suit as local businesses take advantage of added flexibility to the city policy when it comes to public signage.  

“We wanted to allow flexibility in terms of size,” said Brian Desatnik, director of community development. “We had talked to businesses and commercial centers around the city, and that was one of the primary complaints that were expressed. The city’s sign code was too restrictive.”

With the increased amount of elevated signage comes increased curiosity, as the city has long-established a reputation for its restrictions against allowing business owners from setting up large monument displays.  However, small changes to that policy have been in the works for quite some time, according to Councilmember Corey Calaycay, who says the genesis of the issue came about during his mayorship. In 2009, Mr. Calaycay and Maureen Aldridge, chief executive officer of the Claremont Chamber of Commerce, conducted door-to-door visits with local business owners and received an overwhelming response for the need for more visibility.  

“A common theme no matter what center we visited was the limitations with signs,” Mr. Calaycay recalled. “Business owners felt that they couldn’t be seen.”

Such was the case for Casa De Salsa, hidden from street view in the Old School House. Judy Flores, co-owner of Casa De Salsa Mexican restaurant says the businesses of the Old School House have been talking with city officials about setting up a proper sign on the corner of Foothill and Indian Hill Boulevard for the past 5 years.

“Before, it was very difficult,” Ms. Flores said. “People would call us asking how to get to the restaurant because they were driving around the complex and could not find us.”

After extensive review, Claremont’s architectural commission and city council approved a change to the city’s ordinance later that year. Whereas previously the city would only allow 3 tenants to a sign, Claremont business complexes could now build a multi-tenant, monumental signage with the proper approval.

Just weeks after the installment, she says she is already seeing a change.

“I saw a difference as soon as the sign went up, business has picked up little by little, and people are commenting that they found us because they saw the sign,” Ms. Flores said. “We are visible now.”

While some multi-tenant signs are now a part of Claremont’s future, residents shouldn’t be concerned about another Norms-sized behemoth. The Village District is completely restricted and all other areas are subject to architectural commission review and approval.

“We are just saying [business complexes] are allowed to have monument signs. It doesn’t mean they are allowed any size,” Mr. Desatnik said. “All signs are still subject to review.”

—Beth Hartnett


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