Beach Sign Trend: “Beach, interrupted: Owner of unique Longboat property ends public access”

Beach Sign Trend: “Beach, interrupted: Owner of unique Longboat property ends public access”


“Longboat Key beach enthusiasts have for years had the run of the town’s nearly 11 miles of Gulf of Mexico shoreline, which up until this summer included a 209-foot stretch of privately owned seawall on one of the town’s most iconic properties.

But a few weeks ago, following repairs to the seawall following Hurricane Eta in 2020, the owners of the property known as Ohana at 6633 Gulf of Mexico Drive, posted signs that their property, which extends to the water’s edge, was now off limits…

The only way to avoid trespassing on Ohana Hale Estate Land Trust property is now to wade into the surf, which often breaks right on the seawall, or make a 1-mile detour along Gulf of Mexico Drive using the two nearest public beach-access spots.

The seawall that extends all the way to the state’s erosion control line is unusual and dates back more than 50 years, town attorney Maggie Mooney said. ‘All of a sudden, we see signs saying that they had an invisible fence and a dog in training, and that’s where we all went, “Oh, OK. Things are changing,”‘

Longboat Key Turtle Watch Vice President Cyndi Seamon said of volunteers who scour the beach regularly during nesting season. Mooney explained the public’s right to access the beach area seawards of the state-drawn erosion control line (ECL).”

— Mark Bergin,

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Beach Sign Trend: “More no trespassing signs popping up on private properties on Siesta Key beaches”

Beach Sign Trend: “More no trespassing signs popping up on private properties on Siesta Key beaches”

Photo: WWSP

“Some resort and condo owners on Siesta Key have placed signs on the beach telling people to stay off their beach property…

Sarasota County says they are aware of the situation and they are looking into the ordinance that governs the signage. Although some beachgoers are upset with what they’re seeing, many are very understanding.

— Rick Adams, WWSP

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Legal: “New sign code could limit ‘obscene language’ in Punta Gorda”

Legal: “New sign code could limit ‘obscene language’ in Punta Gorda”

Photo: Daniel Sutphin, Sun

“A new Punta Gorda law is in the works that could restrict indecent or obscene language on residential signs and flags — and even a person’s clothes if worn in public places.

‘We get complaints about people putting up — whether it’s a flag or sign or (wearing) apparel, whatever — that has the F word on it,’ said City Council Member Nancy Prafke…

The city began reworking its current sign code in January 2020 due to an abundance of Realtor signs in public areas.

During the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign, more issues came to light with residential flags and signs, the amount of them, and even the language some featured that could be deemed as offensive.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the City Council approved the first of two readings of the city’s new ‘Sign Standards’ code that would try to control some of these issues…

With the new code, however, the city plans to restrict offensive language, defining it as ‘fighting words,’ ‘indecent speech’ or ‘obscene.’

The City Council also amended the new code to include apparel should a shirt, hat, or other piece of clothing display language in a public place that could be found to be in violation of those definitions.

‘So, when you’re driving down the street and someone has a sign (with offensive language) in their yard,” said City Manager Greg Murray, “that can be enforceable but if it’s inside a place like Fishermen’s Village (it’s not because) you’re on private property.’

Murray went on to say that if a person was wearing an ‘offensive’ shirt in a public place like the city’s Harborwalk along Charlotte Harbor, they would be in violation of the new code.

What are “fighting words?

In the new code, the city defines this as words or graphics which ‘by their very utterance’ have a direct tendency to incite immediate breach of the peace by the person to whom, individually, the remark is addressed.

Fighting words include, but are not limited to, defamatory remarks made to private citizens; and epithets (or labels) based on the person’s race, color, religion, disability, national origin, ethnicity or sex.

What is ‘indecent speech?’

In the new code, the city defines this as language or graphics that depict or describe sexual or excretory activities or organs in a manner that is offensive as measured by contemporary community standards.

What is ‘obscene’ language?

In the new code, the city defines this as language or graphics that depict or describe sex or sexual organs in a manner appealing to, or intended to appeal to, the average viewer or reader’s visceral sexual (prurient) interests, and taken as a whole, lacks any justification from a political, literary, artistic or scientific value.

What is a sign?

In the new code, a ‘sign’ is defined as any device, structure, item, thing, object, fixture, painting, printed material, or visual image using words, graphics, symbols, numbers, or letters designed or used for the purpose of communicating a message or attracting attention.

City Attorney David Levin told the City Council that this definition could ‘arguably include something being worn.’

Mayor Lynne Matthews thought a more clear definition was needed.

‘We should include something specific about apparel of any kind,’ Matthews said. ‘It needs to be added specifically because anything you leave to subjective opinion goes by the wayside.’

What’s next?

The amended ‘Sign Standards’ ordinance still has to come back before the City Council at a future meeting before anything becomes official.

As far as how the new code will be enforced, Assistant City Manager told The Daily Sun that it is currently ‘under staff review.'”

— Daniel Sutphin, Sun

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Legal: Can a city maintain any distinction between on-premise and off-premise signs?

Legal: Can a city maintain any distinction between on-premise and off-premise signs?

Photo: Jay Janner, Austin American-Statesman

“Reagan and Lamar sued the City of Austin when the city denied approximately 85 digital billboard permits for off-premise advertising billboards arguing that the City Sign Code’s distinction between on-premise and off-premise signs violated the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment free speech clause.

The case was first heard by the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, and held FOR the City, ie, that the city sign code on/off-premise distinction was not content-based and was constitutional using an intermediate scrutiny standard of review.

On August 25, 2020, a three-member panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the US Western District Court and held:the Austin Sign Code’s on-premises/off-premises distinction was content-based and must therefore be subject to a strict scrutiny standard of review. The Fifth Circuit concluded that under that higher standard of review, the city’s on/off-premise distinction was content-based, thus unconstitutional.

The City of Austin has announced it will appeal to SCOTUS—filing due January 21, 2021.”

— Scenic Texas

Scenic Texas legal experts weigh in on this case

Read additional article about this battle in the Austin American-Statesman

Legal: “Pa. Supreme Court – Mt. Washington billboard can remain”

Legal: “Pa. Supreme Court – Mt. Washington billboard can remain”

Photo: Nate Smallwood, Tribune-Review

“The state Supreme Court on Wednesday sided with Lamar Advertising, finding that a large vinyl banner the company put on its Mt. Washington billboard nearly five years ago does not violate a Pittsburgh zoning ordinance.

The banner in question was placed over a previous electronic billboard overlooking the city in May 2016. It advertised Sprint, the telecommunications company, in black lettering over a gold-yellow background. The space now advertises Iron City Beer in large red letters on white.

The court, in a 4-3 opinion written by Justice David Wecht, found that the vinyl sign does not violate the zoning code cited by the city.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto once called the banner an ‘eyesore…’

The original billboard at issue was erected in the mid-1920s on a parcel of land owned by Lamar on Grandview Avenue. It is a concrete structure measuring 7,200 square feet and until May 2016 included a 4,500-square-foot electronic advertising sign. It has been used for local brands like Bayer, Iron City Beer and Alcoa.

Then, without approval from the city, Lamar placed the vinyl Sprint sign over the existing electronic sign.

A month later, the city issued a violation notice to Lamar alleging the sign violated two sections of the zoning code: one that bars the enlargement or addition to an already non-conforming sign (as the electronic one had previously been categorized) without approval, and another that requires the removal of an advertising sign when a business has been terminated.

In November 2016, the Pittsburgh Zoning Hearing Board heard testimony that the vinyl sign did not change the existing structure of the sign but increased the total advertising space from 4,500 square feet to 7,200. The board ruled against Lamar, finding that the alterations to the sign would change its structure. Further, it found that the changes required conditional use and site-plan approval under a previous court case involving Lamar in Monroeville…

The company appealed to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

The judge there reversed the zoning board, finding that it had exceeded its jurisdiction by “venturing beyond the two provisions under which [the city] had cited Lamar. The court also agreed with Lamar that it did not need a permit to change the Mount Washington billboard …”

Commonwealth Court, in August 2019, affirmed that decision, finding that because Lamar did not increase the size of the sign, there was no violation. The city appealed to the state Supreme Court, which heard the argument in September.

In the 14-page opinion issued Wednesday, the court said that the previous case involving Lamar’s attempt to transition 17 existing static billboards in Monroeville to electronic ones is not applicable.

In that instance, the court ruled against Lamar, finding that the transition to electronic billboards in Monroeville required significant structural alterations to the existing structures, ‘whereas its placement of the vinyl sign over the sign structure of the Mount Washington billboard did not require any structural alterations…'”

— Paula Reed Ward, Tribune-Review

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Placemaking with “Square Footage – Signs that Define a Building, and Sometimes a City”

Placemaking with “Square Footage – Signs that Define a Building, and Sometimes a City”

Photo: Robert Whitehead
“Building signs have grown into a $37.5 billion industry. Some have become so iconic they are peranent parts of the landscape, often standing in for their hometown.

Some signs have become so iconic, they are permanent parts of the landscape — and sometimes stand in for the cities in which they are found…

The boldness of Miami

Nothing captures the vibe of this Florida city like the pastel-colored Art Deco hotels and glowing neon signs along Ocean Drive on Miami Beach — all part of a historic district. Erected in 1935, the three-story Colony Hotel was one of the first of the properties to make its mark. Henry Hohauser designed the structure, in the streamlined style of the day, as well as its inverted-T sign. His boxy marquee allowed the name to be seen from both sides and the beach… Materials used in construction during the Depression weren’t of the highest quality, however, and by 1989 the marquee had to be rebuilt. Recently, the neon letters were painstakingly removed again before a new marquee made of galvanized steel was installed and the letters put back on.

The quirkiness of Los Angeles

The sign above Randy’s Donuts in Los Angeles can be seen by those flying in and out of Los Angeles International Airport.

The sprawling Southern California city is home to a number of “programmatic” signs — ones shaped like the products their businesses sell, designed to flag down passing motorists. The dimpled pastry atop Randy’s Donuts in the Inglewood neighborhood is by far the best known of the bunch.

Thirty-two feet in diameter, the doughnut can be spotted from the air by those flying in and out of Los Angeles International Airport. And if people haven’t laid eyes on it in person, they have likely seen it in movies, music videos and promotions.

The sophistication of Chicago

The Gothic-style letters of the Drake Hotel’s famous sign stand nearly 12 feet tall and have been perched on the roof of the landmark building in downtown Chicago since 1940.”

— Jane Margolies, New York Times
Great photos and more about additional cities and their iconic signs

Citizens for a Scenic Florida