Are Saratoga Village Merchants Obeying New Sign Ordinance?

Plastic A-frame or free-standing signs are prohibited.

Nine months after the Saratoga City Council adopted a sign ordinance, most business owners are in compliance, but some are not, a planner said this week.

Evidence of non-compliance are A-frame, or free-standing plastic signs along Big Basin Way that the ordinance specifically prohibits.

The city's ordinance was updated in April of 2012. The Council took action after learning that the ordinance had not been revised since the early 1990s, said Saratoga planner Cynthia McCormick.

"We wanted to make sure that our sign ordinance supported the First Amendment," McCormick said.

Several court cases have determined that sign regulations must be content neutral and conform to free speech rights projected by the First Amendment, McCormick explained.

Some businesses have been cited for noncompliance along Saratoga Sunnyvale Road and in Saratoga Village, McCormick added.

The attached PDF shows the Saratoga Village sign district handout with specifications for building signs, free-standing signs, temporary signs, electronic signs and window and so-called A-frame or free-standing signs.

The latter must be located within 10 feet from primary entrance to commercial building, not exceed six square feet in area and four feet in height, constructed of wood, metal or blackboard, not be affixed to any tree structure and only be displayed when the business is open. Plastic A-frame signs are prohibited by the ordinance.

MichaelJ January 30, 2013 at 07:48 PM
A-frame signs are easy to store and move around. As long as they are out of the way and not in a pedestrian's way, I think they should be allowed.
Chuck Page January 31, 2013 at 12:39 AM
The Saratoga Planning Commission looked at the sign ordinance extensively, even taking photos of EVERY sign in Saratoga. When it comes to the A-Frame signs, it appeared to me that they tried to establish a standard for the signs that would be seen as higher-quality or higher-"class" signs, due to the higher quality material that they were made of. The sign ordinance applies to the entire city - not just the village. It's interesting to note that pretty soon after the ordinance was approved by the City Council, I received calls from some non-village shop owners. They were complaining about the need to re-make their A-Frame signs because the old ones were made of PVC pipe. The shop owners said to me (I'm paraphrasing several comments together), "the A-Frame ordinance wants higher quality signs primarily for the village". So I asked if they felt that their business was of a "lower-quality" or "lower-class" than those in the village. (Note, the owners I spoke with are paying higher rent than many of those in the village). The answer, of course, was a resounding "NO" after the momentary silence. At least one of those owners now has A-Frame signs made out of a much nicer material than PVC pipe.
Sheila Sanchez January 31, 2013 at 03:35 AM
So great you have all this knowledge and information, Chuck! I became interested in this topic because A-frame signs are prohibited in Los Gatos, but they're still present at some business locations. It's funny how I became educated about A-frame signs just as I was going to propose we make A-frame signs for virtual Patch editors in my Silicon Valley Patch cluster! Didn't know they were such an issue in some communities.


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