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Issues in Sign Illumination

Exterior Signage, Others, Signage Regulations, Signage Tips

It’s understandable that local communities would want to regulate the signs that businesses install. City residents are naturally interested in maintaining high standards regarding community appearance and aesthetics.

The problem is that local codes can easily become overly restrictive, and inadvertently prevent business owners from advertising in legitimate ways, particularly as technology and community standards change.

Sign lighting is one of the most problematic issues within this regulatory arena.

For example, many communities have regulations that simply assume nighttime illumination of signage is automatically harmful and unsightly. As a result, these communities often enact overly restrictive codes that can negatively impact the community’s economic health, as well as impose unnecessary costs on small business owners struggling to keep their heads above water.

In addition, excessive restrictions on signage illumination – such as treating them as “light sources” instead of what they are: business signage – can harm a sign’s ability to reach out and communicate to passersby. By limiting the amount of light a sign can emit, communities can make an otherwise powerful sign inconspicuous or even unreadable.

What’s more, sign illumination can aid in nighttime public safety in business districts by increasing visibility and providing landmarks.

Some cities and towns are trying to limit the hours during which signs can be illuminated, requiring total shutoff during specific hours and thereby limiting the sign’s value.

Especially when applied to currently installed signs, rules like these prevent signage from serving any of the positive purposes for which it was originally installed, including communicating its intended messages.

Fortunately, there are compromises available. For example, some signs can be dimmed when too bright, and new technologies can allow signage to limit the spectrum of light emitted (as in San Diego, where downtown lighting is limited to a narrow band of color so as not to interfere with the stellar observations of the 200-inch telescope on nearby Mt. Palomar) and can also be set up to use a given amount of light more effectively.

Metro Sign & Awning has experts available to help you understand, comply with, and as necessary apply for exemptions from overly restrictive local signage codes. Our goal is to help you stay within sensible community standards while also making the best use of your signage opportunities. If you’re feeling hampered by community-imposed restrictions, please take a moment to contact us here for help.

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