When Bob Senske first saw the proposed replacement signs that could greet visitors to Belmont Shore on Second Street, he was “horrified.”
The red flag atop the blocky-blue lettering was something that people who grew up around the water would recognize as an oncoming storm, he said, and the overall design was more fitting for a strip mall than a beachside neighborhood corridor that’s home to local restaurants, shops and bars.
“It looked like it belonged in Valencia at some landlocked mall near Magic Mountain,” Senske said.
Replacing the gateway signage in Belmont Shore—a necessary task, as the old signs were riddled with termites, and one was hit by a car—has been an ongoing process for the Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Area Advisory Commission, which has been discussing the issue since early last year.
Now, residents will get to vote on four design options for new signage through a survey that’s being distributed through the city’s Public Works Department.
The four renderings were revealed at the Belmont Shore Parking and Business Commission meeting Thursday morning.
When Senske showed up to a commission meeting late last year and saw the design that was under consideration, he knew he had to contribute.
Senske, a local artist whose family goes back four generations in Belmont Shore, made a name for himself capturing the city’s beach scenes on canvases and has even had his work showcased at Long Beach Airport.
He said the sign needed elements to acknowledge the beach, which sits just a few blocks south of the strip.
A seal was out of the question, given that Seal Beach is Long Beach’s neighbor, but some other sea life could work, as could an anchor, a boat or even wavy lines to indicate a breeze, Senske said.
After attending a meeting at Belmont Shore’s Fire Station 8 last December, he volunteered to design a sign that had more of an ocean feel to it with waves, wind or even just a revamped version of the old welcome signs that featured a sailboat and an anchor.
“You’ve got to show a proximity to the sea, otherwise you might as well go to Bakersfield with it,” he said.
Senske added that he feels strongly that the wording should be the same as the old sign: ”Belmont Shore Welcomes You.”
Senske’s contribution includes his preferred “Belmont Shore Welcomes You” message with Belmont Shore in a banner, similar to the original sign. The words are laid on top of a beach scene with a starfish and an anchor above the banner.
Two other designs look similar to the originally proposed sign, which the commission appeared likely to approve before opening up the process to new designs late last year. One has red backlit lettering, and the other has white Art Deco lettering sitting atop a pole, but both have the red storm flag removed. Both read “Welcome to Belmont Shore.”
The last design looks the most similar to the old Belmont Shore sign, down to the coloring and font. However, the oval-shaped sign is also elevated atop a pole, like the others.
While the old Belmont Shore welcome sign sat a few feet above ground level on medians at either ends of the Second Street corridor, the new signs are being elevated so that they are more noticeable and to allow large delivery trucks and other tall vehicles to safely drive under them.
When the designs were revealed Thursday morning, commissioners and residents alike shared their thoughts.
From requests for a smooth sign pole—and one that could double as a flag pole—to assertions that the community survey should be published with every Long Beach news outlet, as well as across relevant social media channels, attendees seemed to still be at odds over the four renderings.
“One of the goals of this sign is to keep it simple,” Commissioner Jann Kronick-Gath said at the meeting. “I personally don’t want to jazz the pole up. …. You can’t just go put lights all around it. That’s going to look so tacky.”
Resident Ben Cochrane, who spoke during public comment, pushed back against only sharing the survey through the local media and the city’s channels since that would not garner enough input specifically from Belmont Shore residents.
Matt Peterson, a local business owner who chairs the commission, meanwhile, told the Post that the decision to gather public opinions from the community was just to help aid in the decision-making process. Ultimately, the decision lies in the commission’s hands.
“This is just something to let people know the direction that we’re heading,” Peterson said. “If we opened it up and it was necessary to get public opinion … nothing would get done—we’d be batting around design elements for the next 10 years.”
Peterson added that, at this point, the process is “taking way too long.”
The commission had hopes of completing the design and installing the new signage before the previous City Council turned over in December.
The survey will be available in May, and the commission expects to discuss the results at its next meeting.
Assistant Editor Kat Schuster contributed to this story.
Special meeting scheduled to gather input on new design for Belmont Shore sign