Glendale-Fast Food Dispute: Southern California City Tries To Make Restaurant Signs Smaller

A full 38 pages of Title 30 of the Municipal Code in Glendale, Calif., in Los Angeles county, are dedicated to the regulation of signs. The rules dictate the portion of a sign's height that is allowed to rise "above any parapet or eave line" (half), the body responsible for OKing murals ("the design review board") and the required vertical plane angle on marquee signs ("less than twenty (20) degrees").

But even Hammurabi's Code is useless if it's not enforced. And so it is with Title 30 of Glendale's Municipal Code. Since its 1995 adoption, restaurants in the San Fernando Valley city of 190,000 have openly flouted the size restrictions set forth in the law. There are now 60 pole-mounted restaurant signs in Glendale that are bigger than they're allowed to be -- most of them advertising major fast food chains.

Glendale's City Council, or at least a highly vocal contingent thereof, wants that to change.

"It's a matter of aesthetics," Councilman Ara Najarian told the Glendale News-Press. "These signs are something you see in East L.A.," referring to the downtrodden, largely Hispanic neighborhood 14 miles to Glendale's southeast.

The Council has actually been trying to get the restaurants to change their signs for years, but it's proven to be a complicated process than you would expect. In the past week, councilmembers have written a resolution that would take a harder stance. It's told restaurants that they have to make signs compliant with city code within the next two years.

But one aspect of the decision is ruffling feathers. The L.A. Times explains that businesses that do not plan to change their signage within the foreseeable future -- many of them large fast food chains with established graphic design strategies -- are exempt from the terms of the crackdown until March of 2014.

So a California town tries to fight the fast food with a high-profile municipal law and instead falls flat on its face. Sound familiar?