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Thursday, May 15, 2008

City Of Irvine Confiscates My Political Signs

Things are already starting to heat up in Irvine. The past few weeks myself and a few other Irvine activists raised some money and bought some signs to be put out over the city that said "Goto www.irvinetattler.com". Within one day of putting them up, they were gone. I suspect they were ordered to be yanked out by the powers that be at Irvine City Hall(read that as The Larry Agran Cabal Inc), but I'm not certain yet. I'm going to do a lot more digging today on this issue. Stephen Smith wrote this morning on his website, Irvine Tattler, that the signs were ordered to be taken down "because the city had received some complaints about them". That has got to be one of the lamest excuses of all time. They took them down because they were starting to have a small impact. Stephen wrote that hits to his website nearly tripled after the signs were put out. I faxed over a letter this morning to City Hall that read as follows:
May 15, 2008


Over the weekend of May 10 and 11, I exercised my free speech rights under the United States Constitution and the Irvine Municipal Code by placing temporary political placards on public property open to the general public. The signs promoted IrvineTattler.com, a web site that expresses opinions about Irvine political issues. These signs were paid for and placed by me as an expression of my opinion about Irvine politics.

On the evening of May 12, I saw that the signs were missing. I placed over 100 of these signs and now I can't find them anywhere.

I carefully researched the legality of these signs. The Irvine Free Speech Ordinance says:


Sec. 4-14-601. Prohibitions.
No person shall interfere with the exercise of free speech rights by persons within areas open to the general public in shopping centers, apartment complexes and other private or public property open to the general public. As used in this section, "free speech rights" shall mean the right to freedom of speech, the right to solicit and collect signatures on petitions and the right to distribute literature or display temporary signs or placards of a political nature; provided such activities do not result in the obstruction of entrances, exits or passageways or create a threat to public safety.
(Code 1976, § IV.L-601; Ord. No. 90-3, § 1, 2-13-90)

The ordinance is quite clear that I have the right to place temporary placards of a political nature on public property open to the general public.

If you or your staff removed these signs, you are in violation of Irvine law and the First Amendment of the Constitution and I expect you to immediately return the signs to their original locations.

Please contact me immediately to explain if you know what happened to these signs. You can call me at (949) xxx-xxxx or email me at allanbartlett@gmail.com

Allan Bartlett

cc: Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times
Sean Emery, Orange County Register
R. Scott Moxley, OC Weekly
Rick Reiff, OC Business Journal


  • At 2:22 PM, Blogger Todd Gallinger said…

    Silliness, anyone who lives in Irvine knows you can't just post signs up like that. Ever try having a garage sale or posting for a lost cat?

    This is the obvious political stunt: put up signs knowing they will be taken down (not for content but because they violate CC&Rs and the Irvine Sign Code), when signs are taken down whine and play victim, Blame Larry Agran.

    If you're really being discriminated against because of the waste of server space that is the Irvine Tattler, where are the other signs?

  • At 5:54 PM, Blogger Ed said…

    I'm not sure how much $ the signs cost or how much time it took, but I did see them and sooooo appreciated you getting the word out.

    Maybe a better way is for us to take up a collection and purchase a single mobile advertising truck and put the tattler URL on the side. Just have that drive around Irvine for one day, park it in front of City Hall, call the paper to get a picture and that will get people talking.

    I appreciate everything that helps put the word out to Irvine citizens about the Tattler.

    I'm not sure of the cost, but there are at least two local companies that could do it. Simple graphics with a simple message:

    Irvine Citizens: Know the truth
    Check out www.irvinetattler.com

    I'm game, anyone, anyone...

  • At 1:28 PM, Blogger Donna said…

    Allan has clearly demonstrated that he researched the legality of posting signs in the city of Irvine. If we can't rely on understanding the law, then we will have selective enforcement of laws against people who are not "in favor". Oh, that's right, we already have that.

    I have some leftover flexible magnetic rolls from Michael's Craft Store, so I urge everyone who is tired of having their "liberty" limited to the inside of their locked bedroom door on a good day, to go get some of this magnetic stuff, and make your own portable and paint-friendly bumper stickers. Cost: About $10 plus tax. Adverise IrvineTattler.com or the Powder Blue Report, or whatever you want, but it it's time to challenge the old media and the old politico-boy network.

  • At 1:39 PM, Blogger Todd Gallinger said…

    One important thing to do when attempting to ensure regulatory compliance is make sure that you are looking at the regulations actually on point, not those relating to something else. The code sections sited above are basically the 1st amendment of Irvine, not the ones dealing with regulations of signage.

    Actual posting of signs is regulated by Zoning Ordinance Chapter 7-3, sign type #107.

    Additionally, requirements can be found in a pdf on the city's website, here: http://cityofirvine.org/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=8848

    Both clearly state the requirement is not if the sign "political in nature" but that it is "related to an upcoming political campaign." So a sign advertising for Greenpeace would have to come down, but a sign in support of a clean air ballot proposition would qualify.

    Of course, any expenditures related to a political campaign in California has to be reported to the FPPC. Have the cost of the signs and maintaining the website been reported as a political expenditure or campaign donation? I checked Cal-Access and they haven't yet.

    Seems to me you guys either messed up and put up signs you shouldn't have or messed up and failed to report political expenditures and campaign donations. Which one is? Please let me know, I'm happy to get the ball rolling with the FPPC.

  • At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Could it be the section of the code you cite regulates political signage and there could be other signage that is permissable under free speech? Just a thought.

  • At 7:02 AM, Blogger Todd Gallinger said…


    It's possible, but generally the more specific rule will govern rather than the more general. So the general free speech ordinance will be in power when there is not a specific ordinance (like the sign code) in place. Though its hypothetically possible, it doesn't exist in Irvine. Something easily locatable by anyone who bothers to look (search "signs" on city's website, a handout about political signs comes up, I've linked above).

  • At 8:15 PM, Anonymous intergalacticman said…

    The Most Esteemed Mr. Gallinger,

    The placement of Mr. Bartlett's signs are defended by Sec. 4-14-601. Im sure that you already knew this because of the extensive research you conducted among city codes. It says that NO ONE shall interfere with the placement of temporary signs of a political nature. Section 4-14-602 even gives penalties for violating the previous section. I have seen in the university park area COUNTLESS signs for real estate agencies and garage sales that are not removed even though they are BLATANTLY advertising their trade. One could only conclude that the mayor and her cronies seized the signs illegally and then had their lawyer pal cover it up with some fancy legal words.


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