Campaign signs: pollution or democracy?
Campaign signs for the Oct. 7 recall ballot targeting two City Council members and the Nov. 4 election to fill two four-year council positions are already appearing on Yorba Linda roadways, signaling an early start to a contentious battle for control of the city's governing body.
Generally, residents fall into one of two camps regarding the biennial display of campaign clutter, with some seeing the signs as examples of a vibrant democracy and others decrying the visual pollution and environmental waste by the posting of so many repetitive messages.
And historically, the signage wars bring out some of the most immature behavior exhibited by candidates and supporters, involving myriad charges and counter-charges of sign-stealing or defacement, as if junior high “mean girls” were competing for seventh-grade class secretary.
Also dispiriting is the fact that some of the candidates seeking to make and administer Yorba Linda's laws don't always follow long-standing zoning regulations regarding temporary signs, copies of which are given to all council contenders when they file for the ballot.
The city regulates temporary signs on both public rights-of-ways and on private property on the theory that such signage can “present a potential hazard to persons and property.” The rules, the guidelines state, “enable freedom of expression, while preserving public safety.”
For example, unlighted signs on private property can't exceed 32 square feet in area, and freestanding signs can't be higher than six feet.
Signs on public property, mostly along city streets, particularly Imperial Highway and Yorba Linda Boulevard, are subject to several rules, but all must be freestanding – they can't be attached to fences – and must display the owner's name, address and telephone number.
The public rights-of-way signs can't exceed six square feet in area and four feet in height, as measured from the grade of land. And signs must be removed by five days after the election.
Several specific rules apply to the location of signs, which can't “overhang” any street, curb, sidewalk, trail or driveway. They can't be placed within 15 feet of a fire hydrant or driveway edge or street intersection “as measured from the midpoint of the corner radius.”
Forbidden locations include street medians and sidewalk tree wells, two often-violated rules. The rule banning signs within 15 feet of a driveway eliminates most Main Street placements.
The most popular location for temporary signs – the city-owned vacant land on the northeast corner of Yorba Linda Boulevard and Imperial Highway – only allows signs on the slope area.
Violations can be reported to the Community Development Department at City Hall (code enforcement number is 714-961-7138). Owners must remove cited signs within 72 hours, with city staff also empowered to remove and store illegal signs for owner pick-up.
And, the city says, sign owners are responsible for liability claims and “causes of action.”