Court Upholds Judgment Favoring City In Gym Sign Case
An appelate court may have put the last nail in the coffin of the fight between the Santa Clarita Athletic Club and the City of Santa Clarita.
On Monday, the California Court of Appeals, Second District, Division Seven, filed its ruling on the case: affirming an earlier judgment in favor of the City, which will recover its court costs from the gym.
The last resort would be for the SC Athletic Club to file with the state Supreme Court and be granted a hearing, but that doesn’t seem likely.
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“We took down the sign in 2007 and when they challenged us, we went to court and we won,” City spokeswoman Gail Ortiz explained. “They did not go through the appeal process and the Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the judgment favoring the City.”
Everything started in 1999, when the towering metal pylon sign bearing an electronic message board near the Calgrove Blvd. business was deemed out of compliance with the City’s sign code because it exceeded the height and size restrictions.
The club filed a sign variance with the city’s Planning Division, contending that the city’s code violated the Business and Professions Code because of unique topographical circumstances that would affect the sign’s visibility if it were changed. After an evidentiary hearing, the administrative hearing officer issued a decision in 2000 denying the request.
The Club appealed and was denied again by the Planning Commission. They took their fight to the City Council, where they were referred to staff in 2001 to work on modifications that included lowering the height and area of the sign, but the two parties could not agree.
After another evidentiary hearing in 2004, the City Council denied the variance and in 2005, the Club received written notice from the City to remove the sign. The Club appealed, but at the end of an evidentiary hearing in June 2005, the Planning Commission denied the removal appeal. The Club chose not to appeal that denial and the City obtained an abatement warrant and removed the sign.
To recover the cost of sign removal, the Club was assessed $46,592.36, with interest, and a lien was placed on the Club’s property.
The Club paid the assessment and did not file a petition for a writ of mandate to challenge the assessment.
In 2007, the Club filed a complaint with the state court, charging, among other accusations, that the City had violated the Club’s First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The City moved for summary judgment, which was granted by the trial court.
The court contended that the Club had exhausted its avenues of challenge and the City’s actions were justified.