Policy encouraging English on signs adopted

A new policy encouraging the use of English language on all regulated signage has been tentatively approved by city councillors.

As part of the sign permit process, city staff have been consulting with business owners to encourage the inclusion of at least 50 per cent English on all signs since October 2014.

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The approval of the new policy at Tuesday’s city council’s general purposes committee simply puts in writing the work already being carried out by staff.

According to the new policy, “the city will take a proactive educational approach to encourage the inclusion of wording that is at least 50 per cent in the English language in all types of signage regulated by the City of Richmond.

“The city supports the intercultural vision to be ‘the most welcoming, inclusive and harmonious community in the country,” noted a city staff report presented to committee.

Although there has never been a bylaw requirement or written policy related to the use of language on signage, the education approach has led to 100 per cent compliance for business signage in Richmond, according to the report.

In the first half of 2017, the city received 306 sign complaints, compared to 178 for the whole of 2016 and 110 throughout 2015.

The largest increase in complaints has been related to real estate signs and signs on city property, according to staff.

However, while continuing to receive inquiries and complaints related to signs, “the types of inquiries are changing from predominately language-related to ‘nuisance’ related,” stated the report.

Sign permit applications in the city have been increasing since 2015. Historically, the city receives about 300 sign permit applications per year.

In 2016, a total of 468 applications were received. In the first half of this year, 325 have been received.

The number is expected to further increase with the adoption of the new Sign Regulation Bylaw, which includes requirements for additional sign types to obtain permits, such as window signs and construction signs.

In June, city council came close to mandating 50 per cent English on all regulated business signs in Richmond.

However, after several hours of heated debate, the majority of councillors, not for the first time, backed off the controversial move.

Council is expected to approve the policy at its next meeting on Monday at city hall.

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