BBAC Amends Language for Signage on Umbrellas

After some contentious discussion, the Back Bay Architectural Commission (BBAC) voted on July 10 to amend the language in the guidelines regarding signage on umbrellas. The amendment had been discussed in the signage subcommittee, where it was generally agreed upon that this change should happen.

The language previously read: “Umbrellas should be made of matte canvas, typically of acrylic material. A single color is most appropriate. Umbrella signage is discouraged, and third-party signage is not allowed.” The proposed changes took away the “single color” language, as well as “umbrella signage is discouraged.”

The subcommittee discussed allowing logos of businesses on umbrellas instead of encouraging just a solid umbrella. Though umbrella signage was “discouraged” in the previous language, the subcommittee felt that that particular language made people feel like they could not propose signage on umbrellas at all.

When brought before the entire Commission at the July 10 hearing, there were mixed feelings about the change.

Commissioner John Christiansen said he prefers to keep the “single color” language in. “I think that for me, since I wasn’t part of the sing meeting, I believe that umbrellas should be a single color and signage should be limited to appropriate size logo,” he said.

BBAC Chair Kathleen Connor disagreed, saying she thinks that language is “too limiting.”

“We need animation,” she said. “If we’re too strict, it’ll be too vanilla. We can’t make it so tight that we have no room to change it.”

“It’s a very minimal change to the guidelines to make it more flexible,” Commissioner Iphigenia Demitriades said.

Commissioner Jerome CooperKing said he was concerned about the “piecemeal” voting on the signage. The signage subcommittee is still working to decide how to update the signage guidelines as a whole, so CooperKing said he felt that this piece should not be voted on separately from any other changes.

Others, like Demitriades, said they felt it was okay because umbrellas are under the outdoor furniture section of the guidelines and not part of the other single guidelines. People will still have to come before the Commission to get their umbrellas approved.

The Commission also discussed coloring on the umbrellas, and the Commission as a whole thought the “single color” for umbrellas was too specific. Sue Prindle of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay agreed with Christiansen, however. “I find the striped awnings very distracting,” she said. After some more discussion, the Commission (except for Christiansen, who voted against it because he wanted the “single color” clause) voted to approve the following language for the guidelines: ““Umbrellas should be made of matte canvas, typically of acrylic material and size appropriate for its proposed location. Third-party signage on umbrellas is not allowed. Appropriately sized company name and logo are allowed.”

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