WALNUT CREEK -- The city is working on a coordinated citywide sign system to help residents and visitors alike find everything from parks to performance venues to shopping areas to parking, and to help bolster the city's identity and individuality.

It's called a "wayfinding" program, in which the signs' visuals, combined with clear letters and simple messages, will make it easier for residents and visitors to find the most efficient routes to what they're looking for. "Clear" and "simple"are what's needed to be seen and processed by drivers passing them at 40 mph, one consultant said.

"Unique sign programs also help to distinguish cities from neighboring communities, helping to create a sense of place and identity," said Matt Huffaker, assistant to Walnut Creek's city manager.

A committee of city staff and community members has been working with Hunt Design, a Pasadena-based firm, to develop a draft plan that includes proposed locations and destinations to be included on signs and design possibilities.

The public will be able to comment on several designs being considered as part of the project. The city had an open house Wednesday to hear comments and suggestions on the wayfinding plan. Also, the public will have an opportunity to weigh in using Walnut Creek's new "Open Town Hall," an online forum for civic engagement.

Using the new program, residents can view the draft design concepts and offer feedback on them. The link was to be available on the city's homepage (http://www.ci.walnut-creek.ca.us/) starting today.

The ultimate design will also have to be approved by the city's Design Review Commission and by the City Council, said Gayle Vassar, Walnut Creek's communications and outreach manager.

Upon the council's approval of the design, the staff anticipates installing the system in phases over the next couple of years as money allows, Huffaker said.

An initial allocation of $200,000 of downtown parking and enhancement funds was set aside for the project as part of Walnut Creek's 2010 Capital Investment Program, Huffaker said. But the ultimate cost will depend on the final design and total number of signs, both yet to be determined.

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