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Sign Regulation in California: What Should Cities Do After the SCOTUS Decision in Reed v. Gilbert?

The U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Reed v. Town of Gilbert potentially has implications that reach far beyond its finding that specific sign regulations in Gilbert, Arizona, violated the First Amendment. The ordinance at issue placed different restrictions on three types of noncommercial signs — political, ideological and directional signs. The justices unanimously agreed that the distinctions in the ordinance were not content neutral because signs were treated differently depending on the message. In holding that such content-based restrictions are unconstitutional, the Court established a rigid test for assessing the content neutrality of any restrictions under a city’s sign ordinance that impact speech rights.

What does this mean for California cities? Cities should review and reconsider the language used in their sign regulations to assess for content neutrality under the unforgiving standard articulated by the Supreme Court. Please click here to read the cover story written by Meg Rosequist in the February issue of Western City explaining the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion, the content-neutrality test, and the onsite/offsite and commercial/noncommercial sign distinctions under a California constitutional analysis. For more information about sign regulations and evaluating current regulations in place, please contact Meg Rosequist at 213.626.2906 or mrosequist@meyersnave.com.