Lighted Building Letters Orange County 101

Orange County Signs 101.

Channel Letters Fitness Elite finished side

Channel Letters Fitness Elite finished side

This article has the reasons why and the “how to” for businesses in strip malls in Orange County. Follow these instructions and you will save thousands, put more orders on your books and likely do it for no additional cost. Fitness Elite relocated. It was an established fitness center and needed a Lighted Building Sign, that is exterior signs to mark their location and tell their clients where they were. Let’s use their example for a short tutorial or example – Orange County Signs 101. This covers what signs to get, permits, and hiring the right sign company.

About Fitness Elite

Fitness Elite provides health and fitness services in the Laguna Niguel. They have a 13,000 sq. ft. facility and a large expert staff. They are the rare South Orange County facilities offering something for everybody from a post-surgery rehab to an elite runner working on the next marathon. They are a lot more than a neighborhood gym. They needed a sign to market their newly relocated physical fitness facility

Channel Letters Fitness Elite finished 3

Why in a Strip Mall?

Why in a Strip Mall? Strip malls are about access and traffic. The traffic gives you a flow of prospects and customers daily. “Access” includes parking and ease of entry and exit. If you do not need this traffic, like a B-to-B firm, or a CPA, pay half the rate, and locate in a business park or other cheaper place. This location is about traffic, tapping into that traffic. Once you have the right location – don’t sign the lease yet – Lets maximize the signage return. Stretching the signage value from the location starts with understanding what is on the table and what to ask for

The lease has requirements and restrictions

Channel Letters Fitness Elite finished UL If your business leases space in a strip mall in Orange County, you are going to need Lighted Building Letters called Channel Letters. Every leases comes with a requirements for signs. You are contractually agreeing to a “sign Criteria”, or “Sign Policy” or a “Sign Plan”.  They may be a part of the lease or an addendum, but they are a part of the legal contract between you and the property owner. Ask for these requirements at the start of the negotiation, do not wait to get them until you sign the lease. The leasing agent will resist this, better for them to gloss over these things, present you with a standard lease and be done – insist or acting in your best interest.  

Available Concessions

Available Concessions

In the lease the size and construction of the allowed signage will be listed. Often there are a few options that you can negotiate BEFORE signing that lease. Among these are

1) There may be a monument sign with tenant panels. Having a tenant panel can drive traffic and make you money. When the real-estate sales rep wants you, you can often get the tenant panel for free. The higher up in the monument it, the more value it has.

2) There are different sizes or sign area for different amounts of floor space, you might be able to negotiate a larger sign (as if you had a little more floor space) before signing,

3) Fitness Elite has a logo. Copyrights, trademarks, and the representation is a logo are Federally protected. Those protections can get you a permit approval that would not be available for non-protected marks.

4) Often some or all the cost of tenant finish is worked into the lease cost. Signs can be a form of tenant finish. This effectively finances the cost over the term of the lease

5) If you want exceptions to the sign policy negotiate them before signing, for example, the policy says no event banners or A frames, or flags, or vinyl on glass (Christmas Sale or Grand Opening, or whatever) –

Often these are seen as easy concessions to get you “locked in” BEFORE signing the lease and become non-negotiable after signing. The truth is the agent wants a commission, the landowner wants the income stream and there is zero incentive for them after the lease is signed.

Get your permit

You need a permit, no permit, no sign. Who can submit a permit?  Only two “people” can do this, A licensed contractor or the property owner. There are delegates, like the property manager representing an owner or a permit runner representing a contractor, but it comes down to this – The Landowner is not going to do this for you, they could, but they won’t. You need a sign company with a contractor license, A C-45. There are 3500 sign shops in California today. Only 750 have a contractor license. Nearly 80% of sign shops do not have a contractor license. If the sign company does not have a C-45, pick another company. Pick a company that can actually get your permit. Permits are expensive, and take way too much time, apply early – permits take longer that exotic hardwood from outer Albania, the number one-time constraining item. Government pushing paperwork takes more time than actually building or installing the sign. Also, your sign does not start until the permit is issued. Get your permit application in fast, let the tenant finish and permit application run concurrently.

The Sign

The Sign you create with the sign shop has endless variations, but here are a few hints to think about before the sign is designed fabricated:  This is a business tool. Like a fishing lure attracts fish, a set of Lighted Building Letters , also called Channel letters or illuminated building signs, attracts people through your front door. There are opportunities to do this better than the competition through creativity and cleverness. By the way this photo shows lit channel letters without the faces, you can see the LEDs. We can help you with this.  There is also a strong possibility to diminish the Lighted Building Letters effectiveness by losing sight of what it is and what is does. These are the basics: Keep it simple, use contrasting colors, focus on what your business does. You can see in many cases  specialized lightbox cabinets, Fitness Elite has one too, we call these Logo Boxes.

Channel Letters Fitness Elite LEDs 2 for the customer, avoid difficult to read fonts. When is comes to a custom building sign kept it simple. How can you find a shop to do this?  Go with the manufacturer. Nearly all Sign Shops will print, but making Lighted Building Letters? Sign Shops specialize. Less than 1 out of 20 actually make Lighted Building Letters. The others buy them from the few that do make them. Ask if they manufacture in house and if they are UL (Underwriter Lab) certified. If the answers are Yes and Yes – you are working with somebody that can actually create your sign

A Note of Caution

Yes you can order signs from China or Mexico but be careful. Few actually get installed because they do not meet the US requirements. Ordering a cheap sign means you 1) get a cheap sign 2) will have difficulty with the permits, 3) will have difficulty finding an installer and very likely will not be successful. Signs are custom. Buy local, where the communication, replacement and repair parts are accessible and the product will pass permitting.  I know of half a dozen Chinese Signs that proudly sit boxed up in owner’s garages. They are worth less than zero because the cost is written off and the delays to your opening are extremely costly


So, if you negotiate early, concessions are there. Get the biggest sign you can, get a tenant panel, try to add signage into the tenant improvement costs and other concessions before signing. After this, apply for the permit with a licensed contractor very quickly to bury the city permit processing delays in your tenant finish period. Order the sign with a company that actually makes signs. This is easy to figure out if you use UL certified companies making signs in their shop. The last thing is getting the basics right: a clear, simple sign that captures visitors attention quickly, there is more you can do


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author avatar
Developer & Designer
I, Frank Murch was born in Honolulu. Dad was an Army Captain. After his separation he drove my 2-year-old self and Mom to Colorado. After starting Kindergarten and terrorizing my parents, brother and sister for 20 years, I graduated both Kindergarten and the University of Colorado. I worked at Coors Porcelain for a time and then a series of high-tech companies in California, Pennsylvania, New York, and Tokyo. Along the way I gathered letters to drag behind my name MSEng, MBA.  30 years later I started Signs for San Diego. Signs for San Diego is a manufacturing company. Much more about building signs than other Sign Companies; it comes from my background. Technical Capability is a focus. We are a wholesale source for the industry. We want to make the best sign possible. It is in my DNA. Applying 30 years of manufacturing experience and 10 years of entrepreneurial experience make us the best sign company around. I also am of the HP management culture, Inclusion, respect and treating people as adults makes Signs for San Diego a happy place to work. We are looking for customers that match our culture, happy, better quality, and better than what is generally available