Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Signs, Signs, Everywhere Signs...

There’s a new sign ordinance going into effect in September that will change the way Houston area businesses display their marquees, while allowing existing signage to remain.

This is a plan that has been vetted by a cross-section of community leaders…seems to be a common-sense approach to keeping our town from looking like a tacky town…and also acknowledges and addresses new signage technologies. There are some nattering naybobs of negativity who believe the changes in regulations for roof top signs, signs on the sides of buildings, and even the brightness of some signs, will cost jobs and initiate a make-over that’s not needed.

How might this ordinance, which will grandfather existing signage, and only effect new signage, cost jobs? If anything, it’s going to create a few more jobs at sign companies who are going to have to alter the dimensions and configurations of sign offerings.

Does Houston need a make-over?
Drive up I-45 north and tell me what you see.
Drive it both directions—especially from the Beltway into down town—which is a route many first-time visitors take from Bush Airport into the central business districts. What kind of first-impression are we making along that sign-riddled corridor? If you're into furniture, used cars and titty-bars, it's nirvana.

A few years ago there was a flap about selling signage on the sides of buildings in downtown Houston. There was a need to raise revenues, and selling signage was proposed as one way to do it. Metro has always eschewed signs on its busses, opting for the clean, red, white, and blue look at the expense of ad revenues. I don’t know if that’s a correct path or not—let’s see how Metro manages its money.

Cy-Fair schools recently introduced signage on its school busses as a means to raise money to augment budgets in that public school district. I don’t think we’ll see ads for “gentlemen’s clubs” on the sides of school busses, but I don’t have a problem being reminded things go better with Coke…or Pepsi…or Dr. Pepper on the sides of ol’ Bus #55 if it means kids have a ride to school. It’s all about good taste, good sense, and sound management.

But back to Houston’s signs ordinance: This is the first change in 30-years. Take a hard look around at our town and see what the current rules have wrought on our landscape-- I believe you will agree this is a change we can believe in.

While the city fathers and mothers are at it, let’s include language to require property owners—businesses and private—to keep trees and shrubbs trimmed away from the smaller signs so that the can be seen.

An example of an overly restrictive sign ordinance can be seen in The Woodlands, where you almost need a GPS to find a business sign. Of course, if you have a GPS, you might not need signs to mark your destination—but I’ve been lost in The Woodlands at night many times because you cannot see signs as easily as you should.
Here's a hint--signs are made to be seen.

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