Call it what you will — “sign-pollution,” “sign-blight,” “roadside spam” — the old saying is familiar to us all: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” But when it comes to the thousands of topsy-turvy political signs that line Irvine’s streets and parkways for months at a time, just about everyone agrees: It’s ugly, ugly, ugly out there. And dangerous too.
Even some individual political candidates, who each spend thousands of dollars putting up many hundreds of signs, acknowledge that their own political signs are a dreadful blight on the Irvine environment. But they put up their signs anyway. Why? Because they feel they have no choice.
In recent years, Irvine’s lax laws have come to reflect the “anything goes” attitude of the City Council majority. In the name of “free speech,” they and other politicians exploit the use of Irvine public property to display thousands of signs in their campaigns for Council, for Mayor, and for other offices as well. The result: Citywide sign-blight.
At the July 12th City Council meeting, the City Attorney made it clear that the Mayor and City Council have the necessary legal authority to strictly regulate — and even banish — both commercial signs and political signs along streets and on other public property. Yet the Council, despite extended debate and discussion, took no action to address the problem in the run-up to this year’s elections.
Former Mayor and City Councilmember Larry Agran, a lawyer and graduate from Harvard Law School, put it this way: “The Council has all the legal authority it needs to clean up this mess along our streets, and protect the public from the unsafe and seemingly endless distractions of sign blight. Unfortunately, for reasons of vanity or perceived political advantage, the Council refused to take any meaningful action.”
The June 2016 primary was the worst yet in citywide sign-pollution. But there is likely much worse sign-blight still to come in advance of the Nov. 8th election, as candidates and ballot measures compete for motorists’ attention.