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A proposed design for new wayfinding banners to be installed throughout the city. Courtesy of the city of San Juan Capistrano
A proposed design for new wayfinding banners to be installed throughout the city. Courtesy of the city of San Juan Capistrano

By Brian Park

The San Juan Capistrano City Council on Tuesday showed further support for local businesses affected by construction on the Interstate 5/Ortega Highway interchange by unanimously approving citywide fee reductions, new wayfinding signs and relaxed sign standards.

The council expanded its March 19 decision to cut special activities and park use fees in half citywide. The reductions previously applied only to activities within the Historic Town Center area, which comprises most of downtown. The 50 percent cuts now apply to all non-sports events in the city and are effective over the two-year course of Caltrans’ $86.2 million construction project.

“In all the time we’ve been in this town, we’ve never had anything quite like what we’re about to encounter,” said Steve DeNault from DeNault’s True Value Hardware.

Cutting those fees is expected to reduce revenue by $4,589 over the next two years.

“My guess is we’ll make back more than $4,200 in sales and taxes,” Mayor John Taylor said.

The council also unanimously approved flexible standards for temporary signage for citywide businesses. The eased standards are effective immediately and include:

  • Two banners per business for up to 90 days in three 30-day periods;
  • Portable signs is now allowed anywhere on a business’ property with city approval but without Planning Commission approval; and
  • Window signs can now take up 50 percent of a business’ total window area—up from 25 percent.

Additionally, the city will soon approve a uniform banner template. Businesses that choose to use the city’s template would not require a permit or fee.

“These things that you guys are doing really means a lot to the businesses,” Chamber of Commerce CEO Mark Bodenhamer said. “When they’re facing such a big issue, knowing the council is coming together … it really does mean a lot.”

The relaxed standards are good for 45 days but can be extended for a period up to two years.

Councilman Derek Reeve said he hopes the city will consider the banner template to be a permanent option in the future but was happy with the standards as presented.

“I’m viewing this as a pilot program,” Reeve said. “If this goes as well as I expect it to go, I hope this business friendly council approves it at a later date.”

New wayfinding signs will also be installed at key intersections to direct traffic toward businesses. The locations of the signs will be determined prior to installation. The Orange County Transportation Authority, through its public outreach program for the construction project, will foot the $6,000 bill for the signs.

“I think this is an excellent opportunity for us to extend a hand to the organizations and businesses in town that are going to do everything possible to succeed despite the construction,” said Tom Scott of the Camino Real Playhouse.

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