CITYWIDE — Private schools in Santa Monica can now have animated signs on their property.
City Council members last week approved a law changing the city’s sign code that would allow City Hall and private schools to use animated signs for public safety and school purposes.
Animated signs are now exempt from the prohibited city sign list.
At the meeting, David Martin, director of planning and community development, said Santa Monica’s municipal code currently prohibits all animated signs. However, City Hall routinely uses animated signs to direct traffic and minimize congestion and many public schools use them to inform the community about campus events.
In order to get an animated sign, city officials said private schools would still have to obtain a permit and go through an Architectural Review Board review. Public schools can have animated signs because the school districts are state entities and exempt from local land use regulations, officials said. The schools can use the animated signs to advertise events, pick-ups, drop-offs and other matters related to the school.
Private schools, like St. Monica Catholic School, are not state entities but have voiced their support for animated signs to share news and information with parents and the public.
Thom Gasper, president of St. Monica, said the school is looking to put up an animated sign.
Council members agreed on changing the sign code to allow City Hall to use animated signs to warn of hazards and reduce congestion by directing traffic, but became hung up on the use of animated signs in private schools.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown said he was concerned because animated signs get peoples’ attention and are “intrusive” by nature. He was also concerned with the signs being in residential neighborhoods where residents may have to put up with flashing lights all night long.
Councilmember Gleam Davis said she didn’t see the proposed change as being a “great threat to the sign ordinance.”
“It’s very circumspect. It only identifies two uses. One is for public safety messages and one is for schools, public and private,” Davis said.
For educational messages, she said it was important that schools have the ability to convey their successes like winning a championship game.