City Hall needs to help our local businesses compete, and can do this by easing the restrictions on advertising at mom-and-pop shops. On Tuesday, merchants met with city officials to discuss changes to the sign ordinance, which restricts advertising to protect the community from visual blight. Merchants who attended specifically asked city officials to allow them to place sandwich boards in front of their stores to advertise daily specials and sales. This would be good for restaurants and retail and we believe City Hall should consider it.

City officials have the difficult job of making sure businesses can thrive while also cutting down on visual blight. No one wants to walk down Main Street or Pico Boulevard and feel like they are in Las Vegas. Sidewalks need to be free of clutter to ensure safety and maintain access. We get that. But there needs to be some wiggle room for businesses to attract customers. Perhaps City Hall could ease the restriction on advertising in storefronts (Vidiots is a perfect example of using storefronts creatively while positively contributing to the look of the neighborhood), or allow retailers to set some goods just outside their front doors to draw in passersby. Maybe those exceptions could be allowed on weekends only or other high-volume days like Black Friday or President’s Day.

We’re sure there is a compromise somewhere. By easing restrictions, that could free up time for more enforcement of those who are gross violators. We’re glad City Hall called the meeting with merchants. It shows the city manager is trying to make Santa Monica more business friendly. We just hope the gesture isn’t an empty one.

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