Council set to permit "A-frame" signs

Council set to permit "A-frame" signs

Dave Boitano

Updated at 9:41 a.m. Thursday, November 7

Merchants who want to take their advertising to the streets will soon have the city’s permission.

On Tuesday night, the City Council signaled their approval of a sign ordinance allowing for freestanding “A-frame” signs in front of businesses throughout the city. The signs are already in place along Park Street and other commercial neighborhoods, but the new regulation limits the size of the advertisements and their distance from the storefront.

The ordinance was formed with input from the Greater Alameda Chamber of Commerce, the Park Street Business Association and the Greater Alameda Business Association. It'll be formally approved at the council's next meeting.

Small business owners like the freestanding signs, as evidenced by a city survey in which 78 percent of the 103 respondents favored use of street signs, according to a city staff report. The report also stated that the city rarely receives complaints from residents about the street side advertising.

The new regulations allow one freestanding sign per business tenant. Signs cannot be bigger than eight square feet per side, must be placed within the first three feet of the sidewalk starting at the storefront, can’t be attached to parking meters or other city property and will be taken down when the business is closed.

Sign enforcement is currently complaint-based. Problem signs nearest the building are regulated by city code, while an A-frame that blocks the sidewalk is handled by the public works department.

Offenders receive a letter asking them to take care of the problem. If they don’t respond, a second letter outlining potential penalties of $250 is delivered and if that doesn’t work the business is cited, said Building Official Greg McFann.

Asked by Mayor Marie Gilmore to outline the extent of the sign problem, Kathleen Livermore, a contract planner assigned to help draft the ordinance, said merchants wanted to have a legal avenue for legitimate advertising of their businesses.

Placing signs a block or more from the business was confusing, Livermore said, and added to a proliferation of street signage. The new ordinance will make the use of portable signs much more focused, she added.

Councilman Stewart Chen wondered if allowing one sign per tenant would create a crush of portable signage in front of multi-story buildings with numerous tenants. But Robb Ratto, executive director of the Park Street Business Association, said his office is in a multi-story building where tenants do not use portable signs.

“There is not one tenant who is going to put out an A-frame on the sidewalk," Ratto said. “And pertaining to Main Street, the situation that you described does not exist."

Association members will be informed about the new ordinance, Ratto said, and he is hopeful that the group will regulate itself.

He acknowledged that portable signs are already visible on city streets.

“We all know that they are out there,” he said. “We all know that what this ordinance will do is allow the city to deal with any egregious problems.”


Jon Spangler's picture
Submitted by Jon Spangler on Fri, Nov 8, 2013

I hope the City of Alameda--or the Park Street Business Association--will invest in a dozen or so A-frame sidewalk signs in the Park Street business district to let people know Alameda has a Secondhand Smoke ordinance.

I still see smokers puffing away in the business district almost every time I am on Park Street--which is several times a week. (And many of them are standing 10 feet for less from one of the only 12 tiny and invisible signs that have been posted along Park Street. Maybe pedestrians would notice the A-frame sidewalk signs: they sure do not see or know about the official ones...