UPDATE: The Architectural Review Commission's decision to deny the DV Plaza sign permit has been appealed by the developer, Merlone Greier Partners. The appeal is scheduled to be heard by the City Council on Monday, January 25, 2016. The public hearing notice is available here.
Pleasant Hill’s battle over an oversized commercial sign at Diablo Valley Plaza continues.
After the Planning Commission approved the 67’-tall Diablo Valley Plaza shopping center sign last October, the decision was appealed to the City Council by PHCRG. After holding two hearings and soliciting new plans from developer Merlone Geier Partners, on December 14th Council finally denied PHCRG’s appeal and approved new plans for a slightly smaller (but still non-compliant) 50’-tall sign.
Architectural Review Commission Rejects Proposal OK’d by Council
Three days later, on December 17th the City’s Architectural Review Commission (ARC) rejected the Council-approved sign plan on a 3-2 vote. Commissioners rejected the sign because it is not consistent with the City’s sign design guidelines, General Plan and municipal code. In fact, the Commissioners rejected the sign proposal for many of the same reasons stated in PHCRG’s appeal.
According to the city's website, the five-member advisory Commission reviews site plans, architectural character and signage for all new buildings in the City. Members “must have a demonstrated talent and interest in aesthetics and architectural design through experience, training, education or occupation” and need not be city residents.
At the ARC meeting, Commissioner Jill Bergman shared that she worked in urban planning before assuming her current position as Economic Development Manager for the City of Danville. Bergman said she couldn’t find the proposed sign consistent with the City’s General Plan and design guidelines – because it’s not. She emphasized that such consistency is necessary for project approval and of particular importance to her, given her background in planning.
The Commission’s vote follows its previous rejection of the earlier 67’-tall sign proposal on October 15th, on a tie vote (with Bergman absent).
Developer Appeal Likely
The developer is expected to appeal the Commission’s decision to the City Council and a hearing scheduled in early January.
During the earlier appeal hearing, Council failed to engage the issues raised by PHCRG. This time around, however, in order to approve the developer's plan the Council must make findings on the specific issues raised by the Commission. For example, to overturn ARC’s decision Council must find the project consistent with the citywide sign design guidelines, which specifically prohibit pylon signs of any height. Quite a trick.