While a new way-finding sign program could be useful if it reduces signage citywide, there is a problem with the process if it is closed to citizens, local groups and the city’s own Parking, Traffic, and Circulation Committee.
The idea started with the Chamber of Commerce and the city: “We have a two-year Economic Development Action Plan that was developed by the City Council Economic Development/Business Assistance Subcommittee in collaboration with the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and Visit Laguna Beach” (excerpted from the City’s website). The steering committee consisted of City Council members Rob Zur Schmiede, and Toni Iseman; senior planner Wendy Jung and cultural arts manager Sian Poeschl; Planning Commissioner Roger McErlane and Arts Commissioner Michael Ervin; Chamber of Commerce representative Kavita Reddy; and Visit Laguna executive Ashley Johnson.
In mid-2016, a subcommittee member said the signage program would have a budget of $250,000 to $750,000. A done deal, they said. At the April 5 Planning Commission meeting we learned the “Disneyland” like signage, benches and trash cans would be color coded in five business districts. The cultural arts manager added a golden arch at the top of the signs without informing steering committee members. There were no cost estimates in the staff report for the pilot program or the citywide signage program. Nor were they provided at the meeting.
Why was the Planning Commission instructed only to approve and comment but could not reject and ask for revisions? Having two council members on the steering committee assures only one more vote is needed for passage. Three Planning Commissioners mentioned using mobile wayfinding apps. Why didn’t the steering committee recommend this technology? Mobile apps are the fastest growing digital technology today.
It seems the process of selecting steering committee members was exclusionary. Why were there no citizens or independent groups that advocate mobility, such as Transition Laguna or Laguna Streets, on the steering committee? Why was the Parking, Traffic and Circulation Committee kept off?
The staff report said the new signage is for residents and will, “enhance the customer experience for residents in a way that visitors also enjoy.” If this program is for residents, why were none involved in the process? This item was pulled from the council’s agenda for April 18. Watch for the rescheduling. Approval of the pilot signage program will be assured if your voice isn’t heard.
George Weiss, Laguna Beach