UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An Investigation of sign regulation and its effect on the urban environment Ing, Albert


The rapid urbanization of land and the associated growth of the 'city' have created an unprecedented demand for living and work space throughout this country and the world. The problems that are arising from this process should be examined. Sign proliferation is one of the factors contributing towards the overall effect on the character of the city. The main controversies have centred around sign appearance and location based on their presumed ugliness and effect on their surroundings. Private advertising zeal, or misplaced public priorities are often the cause of these physical problems, which lead to public and private conflicts of interest. The basic aim of the thesis is to examine sign regulation in order to determine its effect on the urban environment, as well as analyse the problems of physical appearance, public and private interests and other resulting problems of regulation. The basic assumptions taken for the study are: it is desirable for man to seek and demand an environment which will contribute towards his well-being; the concept of the public interest is both valid and useful; and planning in the form of sign regulation is useful and possible in our society, with some optimum is possible. As a basis for this investigation it is hypothesized that - The aesthetic purpose of sign regulation results in a conflict of public and private interests, that is being resolved by the adoption of diverse municipal sign regulations.- With the assumptions in mind, the investigation comprised a review of the literature, which was most useful for the establishment of techniques and general requirements for an effective environment, as well as information from a questionnaire directed to several cities in Canada which have undertaken sign regulatory measures with the ensuing problems. The hypothesis is examined specifically through the use of sign legislation of several cities and municipalities in British Columbia. The City of Victoria B.C., one of the cities studied, exhibited many of the typical problems encountered when stricter control over signs is attempted. The process of adopting sign regulation, amidst public and private interests, is aptly illustrated by this example. Another City, Ottawa, Ontario, displayed many of the same problems. Here, sign regulation, as one of the ingredients of a beautification scheme, contributed much to the pedestrian atmosphere and urban environment, as well as showing the relation of improved sign regulation to an overall program of environmental improvement. The most significant observation in the study was the variation in contents of sign ordinances. The many types of regulations presently in use, leads to the conclusion that sign regulation today is complex, with many problems still unsolved. Sign control applied by local government presently could be any level that is achieved in light of the ensuing problems within the community. The basic recommendations are that local government and private interests collaborate to achieve the desired objective. Although this joint effort may lead to diverse regulations, the ultimate goal should be controlling the direction of the developing environment. This can be obtained in part by controlling and regulating signs. Local government, through its delegated power to control street furnishings in the public right-of-way should provide the atmosphere and leadership necessary so that private enterprise may from time to time initiate actions for urban improvement. Subject to the limitations placed on the study, the hypothesis is considered valid.

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