Alameda Sign Ordinance Injunction Upheld

     (CN) – Clarifying the term of an injunction, a federal judge said Alameda County, Calif., may not enforce its ban on the display of signs in a “scenic corridor.”
     Citizens for Free Speech LLC and landowner Michael Shaw claimed in a June 1 complaint that Alameda’s overbroad sign ordinances gave the county “unfettered discretion to approve or disapprove a variance application to display a sign of any size, with any content of speech.”
     By disapproving signs expressing opposition to development plans in the area, Alameda specifically restricted the plaintiffs’ freedom of speech, according to the complaint. The plaintiffs alleged violation of their First Amendment rights, the equal protection clause and California’s free speech laws.
     “Unless enjoined by the court, the county will infringe on Citizens’ constitutionally protected rights and thereby cause irreparable injury, as damages alone cannot fully compensate Citizens for the ensuing harm,” the complaint states. “This threat of injury form continuous violations of free speech, and equal protection rights, requires injunctive relief.”
     Though U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco granted the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction on Aug. 5, he directed both parties to provide more information about the “appropriateness” of the injunction.
     After considering these submissions, Breyer defined the injunction’s terms on Thursday.
     “Accordingly, defendant … its employees, agents, officers, managers, delegates, or assigns, and those in active concert or participation are hereby enjoined and prohibited, pending trial of this action, from any and all conduct in enforcement of … zoning ordinances that prohibits plaintiffs from displaying the signs, encumbers plaintiffs’ right to display the signs, interferes with plaintiffs’ practical ability to display the signs, or penalizes or punished plaintiffs’ property relating to the signs,” the two-page order states.
     In granting the injunction last month, Breyer said that “irreparable injury” was likely “if the county was not enjoined from enforcing the zoning ordinance against them.”
     Breyer also said “that the balance of hardships and public interest favored the grant of an injunction.”

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