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Florida City Reins in Paint Colors

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

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A south Florida city has approved an ordinance dictating what colors business owners may paint their buildings in commercial zones.

City officials in North Miami Beach (which bills itself as "Now More Beautiful") approved the regulation Jan. 2 in response to “a pattern of unsightly exterior paint colors being used and maintained in commercial zoning districts," according to city documents.

Without specifying what exactly is unsightly, the backgrounder adds:  "The City wishes objectively to control exterior paint colors in commercial zoning districts.”

North Miami Beach
North Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce

North Miami Beach now regulates exterior paint colors on commercial properties. Backers said they wanted a more “palatable” color range for the city.

About 1,900 businesses in the district are affected by the new rule, which passed on a 6-1 vote, reports say.

City Council members gave preliminary approval to the measure Dec. 18.

Lighter Looks

Under the rule, when a business wants to paint its property in one of the commercial zones, the chosen color must have a light reflectance value (LRV) of 35 or greater for the “base” of the building. A base constitutes a single surface area of 20 percent or more of the total.

Trim (a surface area less than 20 percent of the total) can be painted using any solid color, regardless of LRV, under the ordinance. Trim includes the fascia, window frames, doorframes, doors, and eaves.

LRV is a measure of the proportion of useful light reflected by a color. The range of values, generally measured in daylight, is from 0 percent (darkest) to 100 (lightest). Most paint manufacturers assign LRV to colors, city officials noted.

For example, the city says, white and very bright yellows have the highest LRVs and would be permitted for use as base colors under the new regulation. However, bright blues, warm neutral dark browns, and jade greens, which have LRVs on the lower end of the spectrum would not be permitted as base colors.

Lightening up the city's exterior color palette would also help boost energy efficiency, Council documents say.

LRV Requirement

City officials say the move is not anti-business but actually enhances the city's commercial corridor. Using the LRV method, they add, eliminates the subjectivity of reviewing numerous colors on a color chart.

"There are certainly some businesses that might not like the fact that you're looking at their colors," City Planner Christopher Heid told the Council last week. "We think we capture a lot more businesses that are concerned about the visual conditions of the commercial corridor and don't want to be part of that school-bus yellow and the purple and the yellow and black and so forth."

The new rule adds a step for business owners in the municipal permit approval process. They were already required to obtain permits to paint the exterior of their buildings. Now, they will have to produce a paint sample that either includes the LRV or makes it possible for the city to look up the number.

Companies that bring in a color that is too dark may be advised to move "a shade or two up" the spectrum, Heid said.

Even franchises and corporations with well-known logos will have to fall in line, Heid said.

"Corporations don't want you to know that there's plenty of play within their corporate colors," he told the Council. "Corporations will very readily bend to the request of a city if they want to be there."

One Council member agreed, noting, for example, that KFC may locate a red building in one city but a white building with red trim in another.

North Miami Beach nixed a more stringent version of the rule back in 2010.


Tagged categories: Color; Color + Design; Color selection; Commercial Buildings; Commercial Construction; Design; Exterior coatings; Exterior painting; Painters; Regulations

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (1/8/2013, 9:34 AM)

LRV is at best a mediocre measure for improving energy efficiency. About half the energy coming in from the sun is in the IR region, which is completely ignored by LRV. There are commonly available IR reflective pigments - but this is not addressed by LRV.

Comment from James Martin, (1/8/2013, 11:03 AM)

The Color Nazis strike again. LRV has nothing to do with how a hue looks. For in stance a very light green comes off as looking like Chernobyl Green since it looks like it glows in the dark. This echoes Miami Beaches covenants which are written in words that mean nothing to the color community, works like intensity and tone not value, hue and chroma. This has been pointed out to them but they don't care because it is intentionally vague so they can apply their own sense of aesthetics. Like Miami's codes I'm sure these covenants are written by people with no artistic background. America's aesthetics are quickly becoming usurped by bureaucrats who have no training in the arts. It's Sad because you can't legislate aesthetics. I could take any covenant in the country and create the ugliest building you ever want to see and make it fit the guidelines. Where's the Tea Party on this one?

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