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Proposed 95-foot In-N-Out sign moves forward

Impact on city's treescape and brand's iconic nature discussed by Planning Commission

Redlands In-N-Out requests permit for 95-foot freeway facing sign. (Photo: iStock Michael Vi)

REDLANDS, Calif. – The Redlands Planning Commission gives In-N-Out the go-ahead for its proposed 95-foot-tall sign.

The Commission voted during its meeting on Tuesday, March 12, to recommend the City Council approve a conditional use permit to allow for a 95-foot tall In-N-Out sign visible from the 210 freeway.

Why it matters: If approved by the City Council, the sign will be the third-tallest in the area, according to the city staff report. In addition, to approve the sign, the City Council will need to amend Redlands municipal code (RMC Chapter 15.36, Section 15.36.420) to include both sides of the freeway near the Tennessee Street off-ramp and Lugonia Avenue intersection to indicate that these areas are eligible for freeway oriented signs.

Details: The proposed sign will display the In-N-Out Burger's corporate logo to promote the drive-through restaurant on the west side of Interstate 210 freeway. The restaurant is currently under construction and is anticipated to open in the second half of 2024.

A flag test was conducted on July 25, 2022, to determine the optimal sign height for maximum visibility. Obstructions due to freeway connectors and nearby tall trees resulted in the flag only being visible at a height of 95 feet. This height is also needed because the In-N-Out Burger sits nearly 35 feet lower than the surrounding freeway lanes, according to city staff. For extra visibility, the sign will also have a sign face area of 197 square feet.

What they're saying: Commissioners questioned the need for the size and height of the sign, given the iconic nature of the brand in Southern California.

Michelle Bennett, development manager for In-N-Out Burger, told Commissioners that based on the flag test, the sign height and location are necessary for potential customers to locate the business.

"We sit basically in a hole. That freeway is 35-feet high up. We barely saw the sign because of all the pepper trees along the freeway," said Bennett.

Bennett explained that at 65-feet the sign would not be visible to freeway drivers and at 95-feet there was only a small window where drivers would see the sign from the freeway.

"While these are certainly tall signs, the city has provisions to accommodate them," said Commissioner Conrad Guzkowski, who supported the proposed sign. He also acknowledged the city staff's work in laying out the mechanics for finding what he called the "least amount needed to get the job done pursuant to the code."

Yes, but: Two Commissioners voted against the provision due to concerns of aesthetics and maintaining Redlands' lush freeway views.

"I do love the trees in Redlands and coming into Redlands on the freeway you get a sense of 'I'm home' when there's no more billboards and you get to see greenery," said Commissioner Maryn Wells.

Vice Chair Matt Endsley said he would not support the recommendation because he does not believe the sign is necessary for the business.

"In an age when navigation is pretty much at everyone's fingertips, these serve as little more than just a billboard." Endsley surmised that due to the restaurant's regional popularity, locations that do not have similarly situated signs still have lines out the door. "This is not for wayfinding, it's an advertisement," concluded Endsley.

The Planning Commission voted 5-2 in favor of recommending to permit the sign.

Moving Forward: The conditional use permit and code amendment for freeway oriented signs will go before the Redlands City Council at a future meeting.