The most recent court defeat over massive wall signs at Westfield's UTC Shopping Mall in La Jolla occurred yesterday, October 31.
In a tentative ruling (expected to be made final today), superior-court judge Timothy Taylor sided with San Diegans for Open Government, a watchdog group that filed the lawsuit.
In his ruling, Taylor found the city failed to notify the public about a proposal from Westfield to install 672-foot illuminated wall signs — nearly double the size allowed in the municipal code — on buildings throughout the property.
"The public hearing notice for the Project was untimely by one day under the [San Diego Municipal Code]," reads Taylor's tentative ruling.
"In addition, the public hearing notice for the Project was untimely under Code of Civil Procedure section because it left just nine business days, not the required ten, between the date of the notice's publication and the date of the public hearing.... By failing to give proper public-hearing notice, the City abused its discretion."
The decision opens the door for additional hearings over visual and traffic impacts from the signs. Those hearings may result in the city having to pull the permits.
"This renders the environmental approval of the Project null and void," wrote Taylor in his ruling. "That approval is therefore set aside."
The city's 30-year-old sign ordinance has come under assault over the course of this past year, and not just at the University City shopping mall. Lobbying disclosures filed by the company show the shopping-mall operator has been lobbying city officials to allow for brighter and larger billboards and signs in Mission Valley as well as UTC.
Other groups have also jumped on the bandwagon. Denver-based FinWater Advisors joined forces with the Downtown San Diego Partnership to strike down the ordinance in a 65-block area in order to bring an "Arts and Entertainment District" to downtown. If created, the area would be lit up by what are now illegal neon signs, illuminated billboards, off-site advertising, and art installations.
Update: Judge Timothy Taylor made his decision final on November 5, 2013. He ruled that the city failed to provide proper notice for the meeting. This from Taylor's judgement:
"The City properly insists on exacting compliance with deadlines when it is the beneficiary of them (e.g. the claims filing statutes under Govt. Code section 911.2 et seq.). The public has the right to expect that the City will show equal respect for timing deadlines when it is the party burdened by them."