Businesses in La Cañada Flintridge that are planning an exterior repaint will have to run their color choice by City Hall first, the City Council decided this week.

The council on Tuesday unanimously approved the first reading of an amendment to city’s zoning ordinance that would require owners of commercial properties who want to fully or partially repaint their building’s exterior to get approval first from the city’s director of community development. If the proposed paint color is judged to be significantly different from the previous hue, Design Commission approval will be required.

The council exempted small touch-up painting, such as graffiti coverage, from requiring approval.

City Manager Mark Alexander said the zone change will ensure that the Design Commission has an opportunity to give input before drastic changes are made.

“It’s largely because there’ve been concerns expressed in the past on buildings, particularly in the commercial area, and the color … and it’s consistency with what the Design Commission is trying to accomplish,” Alexander said.

The zone change will return for a second reading at the March 5 City Council meeting. If approved then, it will become law about 30 days later.

Outdoor furniture visible from public right-of-ways also would be subject to review under the proposed change.

Councilman Donald Voss suggested that guidelines be prepared for business owners who want to make exterior changes.

“The danger is, it becomes willy-nilly, and if I’m a business I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “Give me something so I have an idea of what to expect.”

Director of Community Development Robert Stanley said that although the Planning Commission had earlier suggested creating a standard color palette for businesses as part of the ordinance, the city decided to allow more flexibility.

“As you know, the Design Commission can be very creative and tends to work with the applicant, so they didn’t want to be tied down with a palette of 10 or 12 colors,” Stanley said.

He added that the initial review process for repainting would be brief and would not include any application fee.

“It’s not going to take long, just enough time for me to go out and look at the building and compare the color,” he said. “We just want to ensure that if a person is going to repaint their building, they at least come in and check with the Planning Department beforehand.”

Lawrence Moss, owner of Penelope’s Cafe and Gallery and a former member of the Design Commission, said that he thought the zoning amendment was a sensible change.

“I think it’s a good thing to have that.... I think the red tape’s a good thing in this town,” Moss said. “The problem is, the people making the decisions, how do you know they’re making the right decisions?”