The City of Santa Barbara has long recognized that signs are an integral part of the cityscape and, as such, can detract from or enhance the City's image and character. The City first adopted a sign ordinance in 1922, and many changes in sign review have occurred since that time. In 1960, the Architectural Board of Review (ABR) began reviewing certain types of signs.
Its purview expanded intermittently until all signs - permanent and temporary - were subject to ABR review. In 1977, the Landmarks Committee began to review signs in El Pueblo Viejo in order to assure that such signs complied with the Historic Structures Ordinance. In July 1977, due to the amount of time required to review signs, a Sign Sub-Committee was formed to review, approve, conditionally approve or deny all signs, subject to ratification of its actions by the full bodies of the ABR and Historic Landmarks Committee.
Also in 1977, lengthy studies began on amending the sign ordinance, in an effort to reduce processing time, clarify the sign ordinance requirements and include Sign Sub-Committee policy in the ordinance. The Sign Ordinance was adopted in the Spring of 1981 and changed the Sub-Committee to full committee status as the "Sign Committee" with two members and an alternate from the business community added, appointed by City Council.
In 1995, the Sign Ordinance was again amended, and the composition of the Sign Committee was again changed, this time to reduce the membership to five members and two alternates with qualifications as outlined below. In 1995, the Sign Ordinance was again amended, and the composition of the Sign Committee was again changed, this time to reduce the membership to five members and two alternates.
In 2010, City Council temporarily scaled down the Sign Committee due to the recession and reductions in staffing. The Sign Ordinance was amended and sign applications were reviewed in two separate “Consent” meetings by members of the Architectural Board of Review and the Historic Landmarks Commission.
In 2017, the Sign Ordinance was amended to reflect an action by City Council to re-establish the full Sign Committee, with the composition changed to reduce the membership from five members to three, with two alternates, one from the Architectural Board of Review and one from the Historic Landmarks Commission, with qualifications as outlined below.
City Council Acts to Re-Establish Full Sign Committee
On Tuesday, May 23, 2017, City Council approved the re-establishment of the full Sign Committee, which had been temporarily scaled down in 2010 due to the recession and reductions in staffing. Over the last seven years, sign proposals have been reviewed in two separate ABR or HLC “Consent” Sign meetings. With the recent reinstatement of the Sign Committee, one bi-weekly meeting will occur every other Tuesday morning. Meetings will be held at 9:00 am in the David Gebhard Public Meeting Room, at 630 Garden Street, beginning on July 18th, 2017. The Sign Committee will comprise three primary members, with two alternate members, one from the ABR and one from the HLC, serving as needed to meet quorum requirements.
The lower-level Conforming sign review will still occur, and will be condensed from two separate meetings into one weekly meeting every Tuesday morning.
- As provided in the Sign Ordinance and the adopted Sign Review Guidelines, to review, approve, conditionally approve, or deny sign permit applications.
- To advise and confer with the Architectural Board of Review and the Historic Landmarks Commission concerning sign design considerations.
- To keep a public record of all minutes, resolutions, motions, and actions.
- Conduct periodic surveys of the City to assure compliance with the Sign Ordinance and the following:
- Assure sign compatibility with Historic Landmarks Commission determinations for historic building, structures, sites, and environments in El Pueblo Viejo Landmark District.
- Assure sign compatibility with Architectural Board of Review policies and guidelines for designs of signs as part of new or remodeled structures.
- To conduct surveys to determine signs of unique character.
- To carry out such other responsibilities as may be delegated by the City Council.
3 Regular Members
One alternate member from the Architectural Board of Review shall be appointed annually by the Architectural Board of Review.
One alternate member from the Historic Landmarks Commission shall be appointed annually by the Historic Landmarks Commission.
Two members shall be appointed from the public at large. For these appointments, professional experience in design related fields including, but not limited to, landscape architecture, architecture, building design, structural engineering, or graphic design is desirable, but not required.
One member shall be appointed from the public at large. For this appointment, experience as a business owner or real estate professional is desirable, but not required.
Regular Members of the Sign Committee shall be appointed in accordance with the City Guidelines for Advisory Groups. Up to one member of the Sign Committee need not be a qualified elector of the City at the time of appointment so long as the appointee is a qualified elector of Santa Barbara County and remains so qualified during his or her term on the Committee.
Length of Term
Four years and until successors are appointed and qualified. Staggered terms expire on December 31 of the appropriate year. No member shall serve for more than two consecutive four-year terms or an uninterrupted period of more than eight (8) years. Members from the Architectural Board of Review and Historic Landmarks Commission shall serve terms concurrent with their terms on said board or commission, and shall serve only so long as they are members of said board or commission.
The Committee meets biweekly, on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m., in the David Gebhard Public Meeting Room, 630 Garden Street. Please check the meeting schedule on the City Calendar.
Approximately 6 – 8 hours per month for meetings and related activities.
Financial Disclosure Requirement
Members must file a Statement of Economic Interests upon appointment, annually and when leaving the advisory group.
Design Review, Community Development Department, (805) 564-5578
City Charter Sections 800 - 805, and 817; Municipal Code Chapter 22.70; Resolution Nos. 18-027, 17-036 and 17-037; Ordinance No. 5791