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On the agendas tonight: Dollar Tree, signs

By Jonathan Morales
Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 at 3:33 pm in Uncategorized.

Orinda City Council
7 p.m., Orinda Library Auditorium, 26 Orinda Way

Staff has included an agenda item on the city’s recently-passed new sign ordinance, which has come under fire as potentially limiting political speech. The staff plans to bring the issue back to the council in the future, but are giving council members a chance to provide feedback tonight.

The new ordinance went into effect Aug. 20 and places a number of limitations on “temporary portable signs,” a category that includes campaign signs. Among them:

  • Each property may only have one sign
  • Candidates are limited to a total of four signs on public rights of way (within four feet of roadway) in residential districts, and only on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • No campaign signs are allowed in the downtown without a sign permit

City Clerk Michele Olsen sent an e-mail to City Council and school board candidates on Aug. 30 detailing the new regulations. On Sept. 1, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California sent a letter to the city saying the one-sign-per-property rule limits residents’ right to free speech and the time constraints on public rights of way favor commercial signage over campaign signs.

“The First Amendment constrains a government’s ability to impose restrictions on the display of political signs, and (the new sign ordinance) simply goes too far,” wrote ACLU legal director Alan Schlosser.

On Sept. 2, Olsen again e-mailed the candidates informing them the city would not be enforcing the new regulations but asking them to “use your best judgment when placing signs in the Public Right of Way.”

The council will also be getting an update on the upcoming downtown plan workshops tonight. The agenda and staff reports are available here.

Moraga Planning Commission:
7:30 p.m., Joaquin Moraga Intermediate School, 1010 Camino Pablo

Another go-around for the Dollar Tree application. Here’s a recap for those just joining us. Planning staff will bring back to the commission an updated resolution that approves the store but places a number of conditions on its interior appearance, such as maintaining a “showroom” rather than a “warehouse” display.

The staff report is also very clear that planners do not agree with residents who claim the store will have a negative impact on home values, saying based on their research (done, apparently, primarily on the Internet) only two types of businesses send assessments downward: nuclear power plants and oil refineries.

“The argument that a Dollar Tree store will bring down home prices in Moraga or start a downward spiral for the stores in the Rheem Center is totally unsubstantiated by any factual information,” according to the staff report.

You can find the agenda packet for tonight’s meeting here.

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