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Planning panel recommends 17 tenant signs for Outlets at San Clemente, over nearby residents’ objections

Planning commissioners decided 17 permanent freeway-facing tenant signs are appropriate for the Outlets at San Clemente, plus four signs to identify the retail center to passing motorists.
The commission’s 6-0 vote after four hours of deliberations on Dec. 6 came over objections from more than a dozen residents, mostly people who live directly across I-5 from the shopping center at Avenida Vista Hermosa.
Among complaints were the outlet signs constitute blight, would reduce property values and degrade quality of life, could cause distracted-driving collisions on I-5 and would desecrate San Clemente’s village image.
“In my opinion, all that is needed are classy, architecturally designed signs at a few off-ramps notifying people that there is an outlet mall at exit whatever the number is,” resident Jenifer Massey said. “I think that would do. San Clemente is a classy city. Glitzy, bright, color-lighted signs reduce our city – again this is my opinion – to a reminder of the red-light districts of places we don’t want to emulate.”
The center opened in 2015 with no signs along the freeway.
Architect Louis Troiani told commissioners that stores’ sales increased dramatically in 2016 after the center installed 18 temporary signs.
The center has been locked in a legal battle with the city over its order last spring to remove those temporary signs, after they exceeded time limits. The outlets filed suit, complaining the city has taken an extraordinarily long time processing its request for permanent signs and the outlets’ development agreement entitled it to freeway exposure.
The center asked for 25 permanent tenant signs, but the Planning Commission said it can support 17. The signs, halo-lit, all would have to be one color – bronze – and be turned off at 9 p.m. The commission also supported five signs for a 129-room hotel that hasn’t been built yet.
The outlet center filed a new lawsuit on Dec. 6 contesting among other things the decision to require all freeway-facing signs to be bronze. The outlet center said bronze is fine for 10 signs that would directly face homes across the freeway, but it wants latitude to use other colors on tenant signs elsewhere to avoid monotony and to reflect national tenants’ trademarked logo colors.
Steve Knoblock, the outlets’ in-house legal counsel and a San Clemente resident, said an appraisal commissioned by the outlets says property values for homes across the freeway from the center have continued to rise since the outlets were built and since the temporary signs went up. He said the city allows various colors of signs on Spanish-style buildings all over town and should not impose an arbitrary standard on the outlets.
Richard Boyer, who led a group that successfully sued the city to block 32 outlet signs approved by a 3-2 council vote in 2007, said the city has taken strides since to preserve the town’s village character.
“If we start back-sliding,” Boyer said, “there’s no bringing it back.”
The commission’s recommendation will go to the City Council, probably in March, officials said.
Source: Oc Register

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