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Businessman Still Fighting City Hall Over Law on Signs

July 09, 1987|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

A Glendale businessman who unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of the city's law on signs for more than a decade is back in court again--this time for refusing to change oversized wall signs on his office building.

Insurance broker Bob New last year lost a legal battle to save a rooftop sign on his building at 736 N. Glendale Ave. He maintained that the law violates his right to free speech, but the state Supreme Court would not consider the case.

New still refuses to change the signs painted on the building.

"I don't care about the signs. It's a matter of freedom," said New, who pleaded not guilty last week in Glendale Municipal Court to three charges of violating city codes. New called the criminal complaint, which threatens fines and possible imprisonment, "an absolute absurdity." He has been ordered to stand trial Aug. 26.

New's was among the first businesses in town cited for violating the sign ordinance after it was adopted in 1973. Legal action by New forced the city to grant business owners 10 years in which to replace signs that do not conform.

The ordinance outlaws garishly lighted and oversized placards, including billboards and rooftop displays, and limits the type and size of signs permitted. Many signs throughout the city were declared illegal, including some neon signs and movie marquees that were considered historic and unusual.

Since the grace period ended, the City Council has ordered strict enforcement, although a few variances have been granted. Seeley's Furniture, for instance, was allowed to keep its bright neon rooftop sign, known as the "red beacon of Glendale," because council members agreed that it has historical significance.

Variances have been granted to a few businesses after they agreed to remove some illegal signs in exchange for retaining others. Forest Lawn has a variance to keep the large sign at its main entrance in Glendale but must replace two oversized signs at side entrances.

Zoning Administrator John McKenna said virtually all signs that blatantly violated the city's ordinance have been removed. However, he said, a number of smaller signs still represent minor violations. McKenna said staff members are surveying the city to locate the remaining illegal signs.

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