View Full Version : Loopholes & Constitutionality in Sign Ordinances?

11-12-2007, 03:06 AM
Here in Santa Barbara, the sign committee is really strict. I'm sure that there are many other cities like that around the country.

On these forums, one thing I've seen are references to court cases which reference time limits before an election on the RP Signs, and how those are unconstitutional.

Since we can't place anything on public property of course, and nothing on street poles or lamp posts, there was one thing I found in the ordinance for public property signs:

Real Estate Signs, those temporary free-standing signs oft. seen at corners pointing towards open houses. Sign code allows 3/person on public property.

Taking the court cases a step further, where political speech would have to be the least restrictive, would these types of signs, cept saying Ron Paul on 'em, be constitutional?

Referencing the exempt signs section for real estate signs, 22.70.030 B 14

Here's the sign ordinances: http://www.santabarbaraca.gov/NR/rdonlyres/73E4C8D0-312E-4ECA-A45A-9A77FD997C6D/0/Sign_Ordinance_Excerpt.pdf

11-12-2007, 03:32 AM
This is not legal advice, just my opinion.

This ordinance has serious first amendment problems because the exceptions are not content-neutral. Someone seeking to enforce the ordinance would have to scrutinize the content of the sign to determine if it falls under an exception, which makes it content-based. The Ninth Circuit examined a sign ordinance recently in Ballen v. City of Redmond, 466 F.3d 736 (9th Cir. 2006) (http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/ca9/newopinions.nsf/3E7522AF9F2E55F2882571EA00556739/$file/0435606.pdf)

[6] Here, the governmental interests served by the Ordinance include promoting vehicular and pedestrian safety and preserving community aesthetics. The exceptions to the City’s portable sign Ordinance are all content based. Different signs are treated differently under the Ordinance based entirely on a sign’s content. The City has failed to show how the exempted signs reduce vehicular and pedestrian safety or besmirch community aesthetics any less than the prohibited signs. As in Discovery Network, the City’s use of a content-based ban rather than a valid time, place, or manner restriction indicates that the City has not carefully calculated the costs and benefits associated with the burden on speech imposed by its discriminatory, content-based prohibition.

Another quote: "political signs are subject to strict scrutiny".

Good case, check it out. The plaintiff won attorneys fees.

Ballen subsequently moved for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs, and declaratory relief and nominal damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988. Over the City’s opposition to the fee total requested by Ballen, the district court granted Ballen’s Motion in full and awarded fees and costs in the amount of $165,508.