City to set up rules for arena district signage

A conceptual rendering shows a massive Apple ad on the side of the Holiday Inn hotel. A special “sign district” is proposed for an eight-block area surrounding the arena.
A conceptual rendering shows a massive Apple ad on the side of the Holiday Inn hotel. A special “sign district” is proposed for an eight-block area surrounding the arena. City of Sacramento

Sacramento’s downtown entertainment district will be a marketers’ paradise when the new arena opens there in a year. But will the arena district be lit wall-to-wall with LED lights and animated advertising like Times Square and LA Live, or should it have a more restrained glow?

City officials say they hope to address that question in the next few months as they establish a special “sign district” in the eight-block area around the arena at Fifth and K streets. The City Council will hold an initial discussion Tuesday night about advertising rules for the area.

Desmond Parrington, the city of Sacramento’s arena project manager, said marketers, sign companies and property owners already are expressing interest in adorning building facades and pedestrian passageways with LED boards, animated signboards, murals and vinyl wall graphics that may be several stories tall, as well as ads projected onto walls.

“There is a lot of money involved,” he said. “With the number of people coming to events there, that is a lot of eyes. ”

But first, the city wants to set up rules about what and how much is appropriate, he said. “We are not New York, we are not L.A. We need to do this right for Sacramento.”

The arena sign district likely would encompass the area from Third to Seventh streets, and from J to L streets.

City staff is suggesting that advertising be allowed on up to 30 percent of the facades of any buildings near the arena entrance and plaza at K Street. Buildings around the perimeter of the arena zone, notably on J and L streets, would have up to 20 percent of their facade available for advertising. Those percentages would vary depending on how high up on the building the advertising is located.

Parrington said the right kind of signage could enliven some areas near the arena that otherwise would likely be dead space, such as the south side of L Street between Fifth and Seventh streets, making that area more inviting and safer for pedestrians. The corner of Fifth and L is expected to be the biggest entry point for people walking toward the arena.

But he cautioned about the possibility of accidentally inviting signs that are gaudy or advertise products and services that might be offensive to some people, or out of tone with the arena district, such as political advertising.

“There are some pitfalls about this, if you don’t do it right,” he said. For one, “the city can’t regulate content.”

City staff and consultants plan to meet with community and business members in the coming months and put together a plan to bring back to the council for its review in March.

Among the questions:

▪ Where should the city allow animated signs?

▪ What kind of advertising should be allowed on historic buildings, such as the Fruit Building at Fourth and J streets or Travelers Hotel building at Fifth and J?

▪ What time of night should sign lighting be turned off?

▪ Should a property owners’ group be set up to control the sign district?

▪ What kinds of signs should be allowed on rooftops?

▪ How to ensure signs don’t create a nuisance for neighboring residents?

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak

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