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Steve Petzold: City Council: repeal the billboard deal

Posted: June 22, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 22, 2014 2:00 a.m.

The Santa Clarita City Council meeting this Tuesday will be the first chance for council members to consider the implications of the referendum against Ordinance 14-02.

This ordinance approved a development agreement with the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority for the removal of 62 off-site billboard advertising structures from the Metro railroad right-of-way and the development of three digital message centers at locations owned or controlled by the city of Santa Clarita.

The city and Metro would split the net revenue — not the gross revenue — with Allvision and another billboard management company over a 50-year period.

During the month of May, more than 18,000 individuals signed a referendum against the ordinance, and the Los Angeles County clerk verified more than 11,000 of those signatures.

In June, Dean Logan issued a letter of findings certifying the referendum and returning the petitions to the city for custody and control.

The primary discussion is no longer over the benefits or problems with the ordinance, but how the council decides to respond to the petition result.

There are two options available to the council on Tuesday.

The short referendum summary attached to each petition reads in part “ordinance 14-02 be reconsidered and repealed by the City Council or that it be submitted to a vote of the People of the City of Santa Clarita at the next regular election or at a special election called for that purpose.”

Last Sunday, The Signal’s Editorial Board came out in favor of an election. Many residents, including me, who have followed the issue and actively oppose the ordinance politely disagree.

We believe that given the success of the referendum, the only reasonable decision, after deliberative consideration, is to repeal the deal!

Repeal of the ordinance will allow this city to begin the healing process, end the acrimony, and give citizens a chance to weigh in with their care and concerns.

We did not have that opportunity during the closed negotiations the city held exclusively with Allvision and Metro.

If, after open communication with the public, the Metro deal is deemed to be the best (highly doubtful) we can go back to the agency in one year’s time. Metro is not leaving Los Angeles County.

A ballot election would be confusing for the electorate. In a very strange twist of events, the effect of the ordinance was changed within one hour of Ordinance 14-02 approval.

During a late-night vote that required special approval due to council norms, the City Council paid Edwards Outdoor Advertising $1.3 million in taxpayer funds to remove 47 billboards, including 22 that were referenced in the approved ordinance.

Why did the city pay separately for removing 35 percent of the boards in the Metro deal without additional compensation?

The ordinance that must be brought to a vote of the people has changed substantially and is no longer the one the council approved.

The electorate should not have to suffer the massive confusion the council has created. Repeal is the only fair answer to the referendum result.

We should allow city staff and council members to hear from the community about whether we desire digital billboards at our precious gateway areas. Numerous cities have rejected them, including Carlsbad, Vista and Palo Alto in California alone.

The billboard companies, including CBS and Clear Channel, have given convincing presentations that we could eliminate more signs and get more money by dealing with them directly. Let us hear and consider their proposals.

Time is on our side. But going directly to the ballot with this ordinance is wasteful of time and money.

The city staff has estimated the cost of a special election to be more than $220,000. If an election is held, Santa Clarita will become a battlefield between the billboard industry and Allvision.

The eyes of the nation are upon Santa Clarita on the billboard issue. The City Council should not place its citizens in the crossfire.

Together we can come together as a community to consider this project and all the others that may be available.

If one thing is certain, the approval of Ordinance 14-02 was terribly flawed in its planning, development, consideration and terms.

I urge my fellow citizens to attend the Tuesday evening council meeting. Let us gather in bipartisan unity to encourage our City Council to reconsider 14-02 and repeal the deal.

Alternatively, you can email to reach all five members. Simply write “Reapeal the Deal” in the subject line, and include your name and the area of the city in which you live.

Should you have any question, concerns or comments, you may call me at 661-609-1739.

Steve Petzold is a Saugus resident.



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