DOWNEY – A few residents are upset over what they say are heavy-handed rules that outlaw signs advertising a yard sale.
Claudia Lozano and several of her friends and neighbors said they had no idea that the city outlawed using signs to advertise a yard sale.
The only sign allowed is the small yellow cardboard placard given to residents when they go to City Hall to pay their $10 for a yard-sale permit.
“Now that more people are finding out about this, a lot of them are getting angry,” said Lozano, who learned of the rule when she gave her elderly neighbor a ride to City Hall to pick up a yard sale sign. “The city is here to provide service. That’s why we pay our taxes. This doesn’t seem like something the city needs to spend a lot of time enforcing.”
The only signage allowed is the yellow permit sign, said David Blumenthal, a city planner.
The city’s code specifies what types of signs are allowed in residential areas.
The city allows two garage sales a year as long as the resident gets a permit from City Hall for each sale.
Blumenthal said the city had been getting a few more calls about the issue lately.
Courts have made clear in several cases that cities can regulate commercial speech in residential areas. Cities officials have a right and duty to make sure residential areas keep their integrity as places to live and not places for commerce, courts have ruled.
Almost every city bans signs on public rights of way, such as on utility poles or light standards.
A handful of area cities have provisions for a few signs so long as the signs are placed on private property with the property owner’s permission. Many such laws allow one large sign on a property and two “directional” signs on private property at nearby street corners.
But many cities have no regulations regarding signs at all, and enforcement varies from community to community.
The Supreme Court in 1977 weighed in on the issue, saying that a town did not have the right to ban real estate signs.
In another case with similarities, a judge in 2000 ruled that Los Angeles could not impose an outright ban on “For Sale” signs placed on cars parked on public streets.
Downey also does not allow advertising a yard sale on a parked car.
Lozano said she would like the city to revisit the issue and make laws that kept neighborhoods from devolving into flea markets but still allowed a few signs.
“It doesn’t make sense,” she said. “Can’t we be smart about this? A lot of people want to get rid of a few things and make a little money, you know? We shouldn’t be worried about breaking a law or getting a fine.”