What’s in a sign? Signal Hill Planning Commission discuss policy for future Auto Center signage agreements.


Courtesy Signal Hill Community Development Department

During Tuesday night’s Signal Hill Planning Commission meeting, the Community Development Department and planning commissioners discussed methods for negotiating future dealership signs for the Signal Hill Auto Center that would benefit the city and the companies involved. In the picture above, Echo Park Automotive originally had signs that did not reference Signal Hill. In an effort to brand awareness for the city, officials and the dealership came to a new agreement and added “Signal Hill” to their signs.

Folks driving down the 405 freeway passing Signal Hill may sometimes not notice the Signal Hill Auto Center’s large, illuminated sign hanging over the freeway. At times, commuters may not even bat an eye as to what the signs read. To some, it’s just the Long Beach BMW store, or the Buick dealership.

However, more bureaucracy and policies go into the auto center signage negotiations, and the planning commission was tasked with figuring out how the city should handle those deals.

The Signal Hill Planning Commission met on Tuesday night to discuss how the city should negotiate future signage at the Signal Hill Auto Center to mention the City of Signal Hill without obstructing marketing techniques of potential dealership partners.

Historically, the auto center has been a large contributor to the city’s economy. Signal Hill Community Development Director Scott Charney told commissioners during the meeting that the conglomerate of dealerships, ranging from Mercedes-Benz to Honda, has been a main revenue generator for the city.

The challenge the city was trying to deal with was how to equally balance references to Signal Hill, Long Beach and the car brands on the signs that are scattered around the auto center.

“Signage is important to the auto dealers,” Charney said.

Signal Hill Commissioner Perica Bell commented that she and her colleagues had to figure out what language had to be used during future signage negotiations so potential dealerships looking to make business in Signal Hill would not be scared away. She explained that demanding dealerships to mention “Signal Hill” in their name might go against a dealership’s marketing campaign that includes references to “Long Beach” in their name.

In the past, dealerships referenced Long Beach in their signs because that city was more commonly recognized than Signal Hill.

Signal Hill Commissioner Tom Benson brought up a point that in the 1980s, BMW’s German headquarters said that Signal Hill was not as well known as Long Beach.

Ryan Agbayani, Signal Hill assistant planner, presented a recent deal the new Echo Park Automotive dealership– which is opening where the old Mini Cooper dealership was located– and the city reached concerning its signs.

Previously, Echo Park signs did not display references to either Signal Hill or Long Beach. After some negotiations, “Signal Hill” was added to signs that are located around the dealership. The presentation also displayed signs that did reference Signal Hill but they were either smaller than references to Long Beach, or in some cases, covered by trees and not easily visible.

Signal Hill Planning Commission Chair Chris Wilson made a motion to have equal font sizes and to ensure the city is marketing itself as well. The commissioner failed to receive a second on that motion from his colleagues.

Benson said he agreed that Signal Hill had to brand and market itself more, however, he was fearful the demands made in the motion would be too restrictive during the negotiation process with the dealerships.

Bell also had concerns about the first motion.

“Using ‘require’ and ‘shall’ might put us in a corner,” she said.

After some discussion, Signal Hill Commissioner Victor Parker said that asking dealerships to reference Signal Hill on monument signs– the larger signs that stand closer to the road away from the businesses– might be more flexible than asking dealerships to display Signal Hill on the dealerships’ building.

The commission came to a final consensus to ask the city staff to study the item and develop recommendations for a signage policy.

The Signal Hill Planning Commission meets at 7:30pm on the third Tuesday of every month in the council chamber at 2175 Cherry Ave.