Does Calgary's northeast have a sign problem?

Drive around parts of northeast Calgary and you'll quickly notice a theme you don't see in other quadrants: signs, everywhere.

You'll see large wood-framed signs, small wire lawn signs, signs advertising everything from South Asian cultural events and driving schools to immigration lawyers and restaurants.

And now with a federal election looming, signs for political candidates have joined the busy mix, crowding roadsides and lining medians, doubling what was already a lot of signs.

Some say the quadrant's sign culture is just another part of what makes the northeast unique, but others hate them with a passion.

"I think there are too many of them," said resident Humaira Falak.

"From a community perspective it's not aesthetically pleasing at all. We all have work stress, family stress and while driving these signs add on a lot of stress as well," said Falak.

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Residents like Falak say the signs distract drivers, blocking lines of sight for vehicles and pedestrians, as well as littering streets long after they have served their purpose. Many residents want the city to do more to get rid of signs that break the rules. 

"When you compare the northeast to other communities, if affects the beauty of it," she said. "It seems polluted."

Falak says when signs are clustered in groups they become a blur, and don't make much sense for businesses wanting to get noticed.

"Especially during elections there are so many signs, this is not right," she said.

"We don't like them. The residents are really concerned about it but some people, especially new immigrants, don't know how to report it," said Kamalpreet Pandher. 

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"But it's the talk in every house in the northeast community, especially in the season of election. The city needs to work hard on it," she said.

Many signs have every right to be there, lawfully advertising local businesses and services, but many break city bylaws by being positioned too close to roads and intersections and not being taken down in the time frame laid out by the city.

Local community associations are also not big fans of all the signs.

"We are told by bylaw that they do not have the staff to deal with the numbers and now with the political signs it's truly a mess," said Saddle Ridge Community Association president Sue Clark.

"People get signs printed without checking on the rules," she said.

Clark said she's including a copy of the city's signs bylaw in the latest edition of the community newsletter.

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"There are some mixed emotions when people see a number of signs, especially when they're bunched up in certain places," said Susan Wall, an inspector with the City of Calgary Community Standards.

"They can be up for 14 days and need to follow all the rules and regulations especially when it comes to safety of being too close to the roadway," she said.

"If they're within two metres of the curb they would be an offence under the bylaw," said Clark. 

Clark says the following rules apply to advertising signs:

  • Can't be attached to any city asset (like light poles)
  • Can't be closer than 15 metres to an intersection
  • Can't be closer than two metres to a curb
  • Can't stay up for more than 14 days
  • Can't be within a school zone
  • Can't be on sidewalks
  • Can't be on a prohibited roadway (typically 60 km/h and above)
  • Large signs must have a permit and can't be within 30 metres of an intersection 
  • Name, owner and phone number should be on sign

The city says anyone who wants to report a sign should call 311 and an officer will be assigned to the location to investigate for violations.

Fines for violations range from $100 to $1,000 and signs will be removed and impounded.