ORINDA -- A recent increase in requests to promote community events by hanging promotional banners from city-owned light poles is spurring leaders to draft for the first time a policy governing the practice.

Of the 48 city-owned poles sprinkled throughout Orinda's two core business districts, all can display flags and 24 are capable of also hosting vertical banners.

The city works annually with the Orinda Association to hang American flags from the poles ahead of the Fourth of July; recent years have also seen locally designed floral flags hoisted in the spring.

But in the absence of a policy outlining what types of events or messages are permissible, banners promoting community events -- such as the California Independent Film Festival -- have had to be considered on a case-by-case basis as they come up.

At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, City Attorney Osa Wolff briefed the council about different policy options for displaying banners going forward, and how those options relate to constitutional free speech issues.

Wolff said the city's options include tightly restricting the content of banners; opening them up broadly as a public forum; or choosing a "hybrid" policy that opens them up to the public but puts some restrictions on the types of content -- for example, banners would have to promote events that are open to the public and that take place in Orinda.

Wolff said flags would remain under the city's purview as "government speech," and that there is no proposal now to fly other groups' flags.

City Manager Janet Keeter also said there is less interest among public groups in hanging flags, because without a strong breeze the material drapes and prevents messages from being clearly seen.

Orinda Association President Bill Waterman told the council his group would like to see event-driven seasonal banners go up around the city. Events like the California Shakespeare Festival, the Orinda Classic Car Show and the city's Fourth of July parade would be apt candidates, he said.

City officials were clear that any group wishing to hang banners would have to bear the full cost of doing so, from purchasing the materials to hiring crews for installation and takedown. Waterman estimated the cost of creating and installing two dozen banners at nearly $5,000.

One key issue will be how the city deals with multiple overlapping requests. Wolff said potential options include scheduling banners on a first-come-first-served basis or holding a lottery.

The California Independent Film Festival has a pending request to hang its banners ahead of its opening night Sept. 11, but Wolff said the city will have to decide on that request before any new policy could be ready for City Council approval.

Councilwoman Victoria Smith said she wanted film festival representatives to attend the July 15 council meeting to show officials one of their banners before getting the green light.