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UPDATE: City Council votes to move forward with billboard proposal

Metro plan would eliminate dozens of signs and add three electronic ones

Posted: February 26, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 26, 2014 7:02 p.m.

This image provided by the city of Santa Clarita shows what Railroad Avenue would look like after the billboards targeted for removal are gone.

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In a move officials say will beautify Santa Clarita and some local businesses say will take away a valuable advertising resource, members of the Santa Clarita City Council voted 3-1 this week to move forward with a controversial proposal to remove many billboards in the city in exchange for construction of three digital billboards off Highway 14 and Interstate 5.

The vote followed hours of discussion that started Tuesday night and continued into the early hours Wednesday.

Members of the public, the council and officials from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority debated the issue before the vote.

Metro proposed the billboard reduction plan to the city. The plan would allow the city to realize a long-held goal of ridding major thoroughfares of unsightly billboards.

“If you’ve been here for any period of time, you know that billboards have always been an issue that we’ve been looking for creative ways to address,” said City Manager Ken Striplin during a meeting with The Signal editorial board in December.

The proposal entails removal 118 billboards on 62 structures throughout Santa Clarita in exchange for Metro to gain the right to build three digital billboards along Highway 14 and Interstate 5.

The deal would also offer the city revenue: estimated at between $450,000 and $600,000 a year from the new digital billboards.

Much of the debate during the night centered on the effects on small businesses of removing the billboards.

Especially hard hit would be locally owned Edwards Outdoor Advertising, which owns many of the billboards slated for removal.

“You are considering a deal with the MTA — a deal that would literally eliminate half of our income with the stroke of a pen,” said Julie Edwards-Sanchez, of Edwards Outdoor Advertising.

Edwards-Sanchez could not be reached for additional comment Wednesday.

Other local business owners who spoke during the council meeting said the billboards provide them an effective way to market to local residents.

Some of those who spoke in favor of the proposal, however, said they thought business owners could find other ways to advertise, particularly in the Internet age.

City Councilwoman Marsha McLean, who voted in favor of the agreement, said one of the things she asked be included in the agreement is creation of a small business marketing committee to help out small businesses.

“I feel like, through the committee that we’re forming, we will find other avenues for advertising and the city will do whatever it can, as long as I’m on the City Council, whatever we can to help all small businesses,” she said.

Others criticized the proposed digital billboards, saying they would spoil views, cause light pollution or create a safety hazard by distracting drivers.

Councilman TimBen Boydston asked for the council to take more time to consider the proposal and eventually voted against the item.

“I think it’s bad government and I’m disappointed,” he said.

Boydston cited an array of concerns with the agreement and the potential safety hazard posed by digital billboards. He also said he had not been provided with all the information he needed to make a decision on the proposal.

Those who spoke on behalf of Metro largely dismissed the concerns of protesters. Officials presented studies that showed no direct link between digital billboards and more traffic accidents. They said the luminosity of the billboards would be so low it would have a minimal impact on the surrounding area.

Mayor Laurene Weste abstained from the vote and discussion on the item, saying she lives too close to some billboards to vote on the proposal.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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