Dublin’s elected officials have stepped in with new rules for displaying open-house signs in an attempt to end the bickering between real estate agents who’ve complained their competitors are flouting the rules and gaining an unfair business advantage.
Complaints over the past year, officials say, included agents exceeding the number of allowable signs per property and keeping the signs up past the sunset deadline for removal.
“We were hoping that the realtors would be able to solve it amongst themselves, so that it wouldn’t have to come to council,” said Mayor Melissa Hernandez during the council’s Aug. 15 meeting, when it approved an amendment to city code governing real estate signs. She added: “But it seems like now it’s getting to the point where it’s not being solved.”
The new rules introduce fines for repeated violations, from $100 to $500, and a deadline to take down open-house signs by 5:30 p.m. The council also upped the number of signs allowed to be displayed per advertised property from four to six. Agents had said four signs were not enough to direct prospective buyers to hard-to-find properties.
Real estate signs can be placed off sidewalks and at intersections on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays and one agent tour day per week.
The new rules were met with approval by Bay East Association of Realtors, which city officials consulted. Steve Medeiros, president of the association’s board, told the council he’s a fan of the enforcement component, which is “the only thing that works.”
“As a rookie realtor I was trained you put out your open-house sign, you pick it up when you’re done,” Medeiros said. “Anyone that doesn’t do that, I don’t consider them professional realtors. I consider them lazy.”
Dublin — one of California’s fastest-growing cities with more than 8,000 new housing units approved since 2010, according to reporting in this newspaper — is the latest Tri-Valley community to grapple with the pitfalls of temporary signs and the people who break the rules governing them.
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In July, Livermore began enforcing its new outright ban on temporary signs on public property such as sidewalks, medians and light poles. The City Council there approved the blanket ban at the tail end of 2022 following community complaints about the glut of political campaign signs — and their contribution to visual blight — that pop up each election cycle.
That ban was decried by real estate professionals who say the ban is too broad, capturing all types of signs — garage sale, events, open houses — in its web.
Real estate agent Flavio Amaral, who has lived in Dublin since 2005, told the council the problem of excessive open-house signs in the city is “out of control.”
“There is a difference between a directional sign and a publicity sign,” Amaral said. “After 5:30, I do not understand what direction you’re trying to imply. There is no direction anymore because there’s no open homes. So, the signs should be taken out.”