A.   Permits shall be required for the following sign types:
      1.   All signs meeting the definition of “structure” within the Uniform Building Code are subject to the structural requirements of that Code, and may be mounted, erected or displayed only when a valid building permit has been issued;
      2.   Signs included in the master sign program and multiple-business sign program, as provided for in this Chapter;
      3.   Signs requiring a Conditional Use Permit, Variance, or Modification, as provided under this Chapter; and
      4.   Temporary banners, as provided under this Chapter.
   B.   Sign-Related Decisions and Appeals.
      1.   Administrative authority. It is the responsibility of the Director to enforce all provisions of this Chapter. Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Title, sign-related decisions shall be governed by the procedures outlined in this Chapter.
      2.   Sign-related decisions. Sign-related decisions include decisions on applications for sign permits, master sign programs, repair or removal orders, abatement orders, amortization schedules, requests for interpretations, and all other sign-related matters requiring decision by the City.
      3.   Incomplete applications. If the Director finds that any application for a sign permit is incomplete, the applicant shall be so notified not more than 15 calendar days after the application is received. The notice shall detail all known points of incompleteness. Such writing shall be deposited in U.S. mail, postage prepaid, immediately upon determination that the application is incomplete. Within 15 business days following the receipt of an amended application or supplemental information, the Director shall again determine whether the application is complete in accordance with the procedures set forth above. Evaluation and notification shall occur, as provided above, until such time as the application is found to be complete. If the Director fails to provide notice of incompleteness within 15 business days, then the application shall be deemed complete.
      4.   Review/standard. All matters of enforcement, interpretation, and application of this Chapter, including all sign-related decisions, shall be made initially by the Director as an administrative matter, with no public hearing required. Any effected person may appeal the Director's sign-related decisions to the Commission for public hearing and decision. Any decision of the Commission, except appeals of an incompleteness determination, may be appealed to the Council for public hearing. The Council's decision is final as to the City, but is subject to judicial review. In reaching a decision, neither the Director, Commission nor Council shall be bound by the formal rules of evidence.
      5.   Perfecting appeal; time limit for appeal. An appeal is effective when delivered to the City Clerk, within the required time, on a form prescribed by the Director, accompanied by any applicable appeal fee (in an amount set by Resolution of the Council), signed by the appellant, identifying the matter or decision appealed from, and stating the grounds of appeal. All notices of appeal on all sign-related decisions must be filed with the City Clerk within 10 calendar days of when the appeal right arises.
      6.   When appeal right arises; finality. The right to appeal a sign-related decision arises at the earliest of when written notice of the Director's administrative decision is deposited in the U.S. mail, postage prepaid; when an appellate decision is made by vote of the appellate body in a duly noticed hearing on the matter; when written notice of the decision is delivered or deposited in the U.S. mail, postage prepaid, to the applicant or appellant; or at the expiration of the time in which the Director or appellate body is required to make a decision (unless timelines of decision is waived by the applicant or appellant). Any sign-related decision that is not properly appealed within the required time is final. At each level of review, written notice of any sign-related decision shall be sent via U.S. mail to the applicant within 5 calendar days of the decision.
      7.   Timelines of decision; waiver of time. At each level of review, all sign-related decisions (which includes any hearing, when procedurally required) shall be made within 30 calendar days of when the permit application is complete, the request for interpretation has been received, or when the appeal has been timely and properly filed. The timelines requirements may be waived by the applicant or appellant. The failure of the Director, Planning Commission or City Council to render any decision within the time frames established in any part of this Section shall be deemed to constitute a denial, and the applicant or appellant shall have the immediate right to appeal.
      8.   Maintenance of status quo. While a sign-related decision is pending, the status quo shall be maintained until the review or appeal has run its full course, unless the subject sign is in such physical condition that it presents a serious or immediate threat to the public health and safety, in which case it may be abated as a public nuisance. No building, electrical, plumbing, mechanical or grading permit shall be issued for a proposed sign until the appeal process has run its full course.
      9.   Appeals. The filing of an appeal within the time limit shall stay the effective date of the decision appealed from. When any related decision is timely appealed to the Commission or Council, the appellate body shall hold a hearing on the matter and decide the matter within the required time period, unless the applicant or appellant waives time. The decision shall be in writing, and shall state facts from the record that support any findings made.
      10.   Judicial review. Following exhaustion of all available appellate procedures within the City, any applicant or appellant may seek judicial review of the City's final decision pursuant to Cal. Code Civ. Proc. § 1094.8. This provision does not limit an applicant's or appellant's ability to seek judicial review by other means.
      11.   Conduct constituting a public nuisance. The construction, maintenance, or placement of any sign within the City in violation of any of the terms of this Chapter is hereby found and declared to be a public nuisance, and the City Attorney or the District Attorney may, in addition or in lieu of prosecuting a criminal action hereunder, commence an action or proceeding for the abatement, removal and enjoinment thereof, in the manner provided by law; and shall take other steps and shall apply to such courts as may have jurisdiction to grant such relief as will abate or remove such illegal sign, and to restrain and enjoin any person(s) from conducting, operating or maintaining a sign contrary to the provisions of this Article.
   C.   Hardship Exemptions.
      1.   Where the owner/user of a proposed or existing sign believes that compliance with the provisions of this Chapter, coupled with unusual geographic or building design and configuration conditions pertaining to the site, or contractual conditions limiting the use thereof, would create an undue economic hardship on the use of property, (s)he may apply to the Director for a hardship exemption. The Director's decision in such cases shall be based on one or more of the following criteria.
         a.   The site is unusual in size, shape or topography.
         b.   Improvements on the site or on adjoining public or private properties cause a visual obstruction.
         c.   The site is improved with a multiple-business development, and is encumbered by an existing contractual obligation that precludes the modification of one or more other existing signs for other businesses at the same time as the installation of a new sign or a modification to an existing sign on the same sign structure is proposed for a business on the premises.
      2.   Approval of a hardship exemption may be subject to time, place and manner conditions, based on issues of size, location, color, construction materials, and design of the sign, without consideration or restriction as to the message to be displayed on the sign.
      3.   The applicant has the burden of proof to show to the City's satisfaction that a hardship exists based on the criteria found above.
   D.   Comprehensive Sign Programs.
      1.   Multiple-business sign programs.
         a.   The purpose of a multiple-business sign program is to achieve design compatibility amongst all signs displayed on a single-ownership parcel that is occupied by two or more separate businesses.
         b.   The submittal of a multiple-business sign program shall be required for each multi-tenant development that is occupied by two or more separate businesses at the time the first new permanent sign, or first modification to an existing permanent sign on the premises, is proposed; except that a multiple-business sign program is not required for a project with an approved master sign program.
         c.   A multiple-business sign program, or the equivalent, approved prior to the effective date of this Chapter, or any amendment to this Chapter, shall be revised, if necessary, to conform to this Chapter at the time the first new permanent sign, or modification to an existing permanent sign, is proposed on the premises.
         d.   A multiple-business sign program shall be submitted by, or with the consent of, the property owner or master lessor.
         e.   A multiple-business sign program shall consist of plans and text describing the details of all signs, existing-to-remain, modified, and new signs, that are and that may be displayed on the premises.
         f.   Only the types of signs allowed by the regulations of this Chapter shall be approved under a multiple-business sign program.
         g.   The Director shall approve, conditionally approve, or disapprove any application for a multiple-business sign program.
      2.   Master sign programs.
         a.   The purpose of a master sign program is to provide a mechanism by which the sign regulations established in this Chapter can be modified to ensure that signs for a uniquely planned or designed development or area are most appropriate for that particular development or area.
         b.   A master sign program may be:
            i.   Required by the Director for any development that requires a Site Plan Review in compliance with Chapter 17.540 (Site Plan Review), or a similar discretionary review; or
            ii.   Requested by the owner or master lessor of a development; or
            iii.   Initiated by the City or the Culver City Redevelopment Agency for a particular area in furtherance of a specific plan, revitalization program, overlay zone, or other area-wide planning tool.
         c.   A master sign program may include provisions that are more and/or less restrictive than the regulations established in this Chapter, as related to issues of size, location, color, construction materials and design of the sign, but without consideration as to the message to be displayed on the sign, based on the particular unique features of the development.
         d.   Each master sign program applicant shall show to the Director's satisfaction why the modifications requested are warranted, and how the total sign proposal for the development meets, on balance, the general purpose and intent of this Chapter.
         e.   A master sign program, or the equivalent, that was approved by the City or Redevelopment Agency prior to the effective date of this Chapter, or any amendment to this Chapter, shall be deemed to conform to this Chapter.
         f.   The Director shall approve, conditionally approve, or disapprove any application for a master sign program.
         g.   A new master sign program approval shall be obtained for substantial revisions to the original approval, as determined by the Director.
(Ord. No. 2005-011 § 17)