Santa Monica Bans Pole Signs, Roof Signs and Banners/Flags/Pennants with Advertising Content

in 1985, the city of Santa Monica, California passed a new sign code that banned all pole signs. This legislation included a 15-year amortization schedule, which meant all of the legal, non-conforming signs would have to be removed in 2000. An article in the May 1999 issue of Signs of the Times magazine stated that this involved 825 pole signs in a community that had 1718 businesses. The article states that an architect, who helped craft the sign code, said "The newer signs are small and in good taste. They should not have to compete with big signs that are in bad taste."

In 2016, according to the current sign code, https://www.smgov.net/uploadedFiles/Departments/HED/Economic_Development/Permits_and_Licenses/FINAL%20signage%20flyer%20for%20SM%20businesses.pdf, pole signs and roof signs are still banned. Banners, flags and pennants are likewise banned if they contain "advertising commercial content." How this would hold up in light of the Reed v. Gilbert SCOTUS decision is unknown. 

The code does allow legal, non-conforming signs to be "grandfathered," (allowed to remain) if they are deemed "meritorious."

A year later, the town backtracked a bit and said nonconforming signs would only need to be removed in "development areas," because it determined just compensation wasn't required there. The Meritorious Sign Task Force established more specific criteria for "historically" and "artistically significant." At an initial meeting, 21 signs were deemed worthy of meritorious consideration. Three months later, 93 signs were officially considered meritorious.

Then, another 55 companies appealed to be considered meritorious, and of these 21 were upheld, which brought the final total to 114 companies. A full report appears in the May 2000 issue of Signs of the Times magazine.