Following ACLU Action, Pasadena to Allow Residents to Hang Political Signs

September 27, 2005 12:00 am

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After Local Homeowners File Suit, City Officials Say They Will Rewrite the Law

LOS ANGELES – Following a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, a Pasadena couple who was forced to remove a sign questioning the war in Iraq from the exterior of their home will be allowed to hang it from their home once again, according to the city attorney.

“The ordinance as it stands is patently unconstitutional,” said ACLU of Southern California Legal Director Mark Rosenbaum. “We are hopeful a new ordinance will encourage political speech and not leave people open to selective enforcement.”

Mary Gavel-Briggs and Patrick Briggs, who are long time Pasadena homeowners, filed a lawsuit two weeks ago along with the ACLU of Southern California after they were forced to remove two political signs that read “Support Cindy Sheehan” and “War starts with ‘W.’ Bush Lied. People Died,” from the front of their home or face a fine of up to $500. The lawsuit sought a permanent injunction blocking the city from enforcing a municipal code that is counter to the First Amendment.

“We’re pleased the city is planning to allow political signs on homes in Pasadena,” said Mary Gavel-Briggs. “The signs are a small, but effective, way to facilitate conversations with our neighbors and passers-by. In a healthy democracy we need to be able to communicate with our community in this way.”

City officials say they plan to rewrite an ordinance regulating the posting of political signs on residential property, and the city attorney has recommended the city stop enforcing some of the regulations until a new ordinance is written. Current Pasadena Municipal Code states that for single-family and duplex homes the maximum number of signs that may be posted is “four signs per parcel” and that maximum sign area is “one square foot per sign.”

The Briggses are active in community groups and their church. Mary Briggs is a third generation Pasadena resident and has owned the home in the North Pasadena Heights section of Pasadena for nearly 10 years. The couple bypassed the rule last month to post a sign notifying neighbors they could leave donations for Hurricane Katrina victims at their house.

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