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Sign Ordinance Review Committee

Most City Board and Commission meetings are being facilitated through telecommunications to avoid close personal contact during the COVID-19 crisis. Please refer to the current Board/Commission meeting agenda for further information on how to participate, or contact the Board/Commission secretary for further assistance.


The Sign Ordinance Review Committee was proposed by the City Council in September 2015 in response to the United States Supreme Court decision in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Ariz. (2015) 576 U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 2218. (The Supreme Court oral argument transcript is here. The oral argument recording is here. The recording of Justice Clarence Thomas announcing the opinion on June 18, 2015 is here.) Reed changed a major part of the legal underpinnings for modern sign regulation. As a result, the City Council directed formation of an 11-member committee to review the First Amendment implications of the case with respect to the City of Santa Barbara’s Sign Ordinance. (Santa Barbara Municipal Code, Title 22, Chapter 22.70.) The Council appointed Council Members Gregg Hart and Frank Hotchkiss as its representatives to lead the Sign Ordinance Review Committee.


The City of Santa Barbara has long recognized that signs are an integral part of the cityscape and, as such, can detract from or enhance the City's image and character. The City first adopted a sign ordinance in 1922, and many changes in sign review have occurred since that time. In 1960, the Architectural Board of Review (ABR) began reviewing certain types of signs. Its purview expanded intermittently until all signs - permanent and temporary - were subject to ABR review.

In 1977, the Historic Landmarks Committee began to review signs in El Pueblo Viejo in order to assure that such signs complied with the Historic Structures Ordinance. In July 1977, due to the amount of time required to review signs, a Sign Sub-Committee was formed to review, approve, conditionally approve or deny all signs, subject to ratification of its actions by the full bodies of the ABR and Historic Landmarks Committee.

Also in 1977, lengthy studies began on amending the sign ordinance, in an effort to reduce processing time, clarify the sign ordinance requirements and include Sign Sub-Committee policy in the ordinance. The Sign Ordinance was adopted in the Spring of 1981 and changed the Sub-Committee to full committee status as the "Sign Committee" with two members and an alternate from the business community added, appointed by City Council.

In 1995, the Sign Ordinance was again substantially amended. Since that time, various minor amendments have been made by the City Council.

Committee Process & Schedule

The Sign Ordinance Review Committee process is expected to follow schedule set forth below, although it may change as the Committee’s work develops:

  1. July 21, 2016 Meeting One: Background Work
    • The first meeting will be organizational and educational. Council Members Hart and Hotchkiss will introduce the Committee and provide an orientation on the Council’s goals. Staff will present information on the two major drivers in the review process:
    • The History and Legal Framework of Sign Regulation;
    • To keep a public record of all minutes, resolutions, motions, and actions; and,
    • The Policy Objectives and Directives underpinning the City’s Current Sign Regulations.
  1. December 15, 2016 Meeting Two: Policy Development
    • The second meeting will review proposed amendments to the sign ordinance and develop the Committee’s view on the policy objectives and directives that need to be served by the City’s sign regulations. These objectives and directives will be formed by the City’s current regulations, but new ideas and regulatory techniques will also be developed in order to adapt to the latest legal framework. A second policy development meeting will be held if needed.
    • The Committee will review a preliminary draft revised Sign Ordinance that highlights the legal and policy questions to be addressed.
  1. Meeting Three: Community Forum/Public Hearing
    • The third meeting will be a public hearing during which the Committee will solicit and receive community feedback on the proposed policy objectives.
  2. Meeting Four: Review Draft Ordinance
    • The fourth meeting will be a staff presentation of a draft sign ordinance, and its accompanying regulations. The Committee will review, critique, and propose revisions to the draft ordinance and regulations. A second review meeting will be held if needed.
  3. Meeting Five: Review Final Ordinance and Council Report
    • The fifth meeting will present the final ordinance for Committee confirmation, as well as a draft report to the City Council on the Committee’s work.
Committee Functions
Membership Eleven Members
  1. Two City Council Members
  2. One Sign Committee Member
  3. One Architectural Board of Review Member
  4. One Historic Landmarks Commission Member
  5. One Planning Commissioner
  6. One Chamber of Commerce Representative
  7. One Santa Barbara Association of Realtors Representative
  8. Two At-Large Residential Community Representatives
  9. One News Media or First Amendment Advocate
Length of Term Indefinite. The Sign Ordinance Review Committee will disband when it completes its review and recommendations in early to mid-2017.
Meeting Schedule The Committee will meet 5 to 7 times on Thursdays at 5:00 p.m. in the David Gebhard Public Meeting Room, 630 Garden Street. Please check the meeting schedule on the City Calendar.
Time Involved Approximately 2-3 hours per meetings
Financial Disclosure Requirement None
Compensation None
Staff Ariel Calonne, City Attorney, (805) 564-5326
Reference City Council Minutes, September 8, 2015; Municipal Code Chapter 22.70

Vacancy Information

Last Updated: Jun 9, 2020
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