Sat12202014

Business & Real Estate

City to crack down on businesses with illegal sidewalk signs

Los Altos will soon be cracking down on businesses that put out sidewalk signs or other objects for which they do not have the required permits.

City planner David Kornfield said downtown merchants need encroachment permits to erect the sandwich-type signs that occupy sidewalks outside their places of business. But he estimated that half the signs currently displayed are illegal.

"We're working up a strategy to address (the violators)," Kornfield said.

Those without permits will first be told verbally. Those repeatedly violating the regulations will have their signs removed, with any removal costs billed to the sign owners.

Resident Richard Toulson, bothered by having to walk around signs on the sidewalk, took several photos and mailed them to the city. Kornfield, who viewed the photos, noted "a fair amount of what he's showing are illegal."

"The signs are blocking the sidewalks and downgrading our downtown's appearance," Toulson said.

However, some sign owners may disagree. Rita Armstrong of Maria's Antiques, which has a sandwich sign in front of its Main Street store, said the store's sign helps create a kind of European atmosphere.

Armstrong said Maria's Antiques was the first downtown store to apply for and receive an encroachment permit for their sidewalk sign, which they filed for five years ago.

"I don't blame the city for enforcing it (the law)," she said.

Kornfield said conditions for sidewalk signs include a 5-7-foot width left available to the shoppers.

The signs also must be no more than 30 inches in height.

As for possible accidents from the standup signs, Kornfield said a condition of the encroachment permit requires merchants to carry liability insurance.

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