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Battle over billboards

City Council to vote on sign referendum in Tuesday’s meeting

Posted: June 23, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 23, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Santa Clarita City Council members will discuss whether to repeal a controversial billboard ordinance or put the matter to a public vote during their meeting Tuesday.

Opponents of the ordinance — which gave the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority the right to construct three, double-sided digital billboards on city-owned property off Highway 14 and Interstate 5 in exchange for removing 62 billboard structures along the Metro right-of-way inside city limits — collected and submitted some 18,544 signatures on petitions demanding the council either put the matter up for a public vote or repeal it outright.

Following a review process, it was determined that opponents of the proposal had collected enough signatures to qualify for a referendum.

The petition drive followed several contentious meetings where many local residents spoke out against the proposal.

Some raised issue with the potential aesthetic or safety impacts of the proposed digital billboards while others said they did not think the city handled the matter in a transparent enough manner.

“They gave this to us as a fait accompli, ‘You’re going to love this because we’ve been working on it for years,’” said Steve Petzold, a local resident who was involved in the petition drive.

At a previous City Council meeting, Councilman Bob Kellar said he thinks that many of the people who signed the petitions were not fully aware of the full details of the proposal.

“I will tell you, if all those people knew what they were signing, we would not be having this conversation right now,” he said at the time. “I believe that in my heart.”

City Council members will decide how to proceed on Tuesday. In the meantime, Metro officials are holding off on action regarding the deal, pending resolution of the referendum process, according to spokesman Paul Gonzales.

Should council members vote to repeal the ordinance, a similar ordinance could not be brought forward for one year from the date of the motion.

If they elect to put the matter to a vote instead, council members would have to determine when to hold the vote, either by scheduling a special election or seeking to consolidate with the upcoming state general election on Nov. 4.

“County staff stated that they support consolidation of the city’s measure with the general election,” reads the council agenda item. “According to the county, the estimated cost for such election has been approximated at $208,000.”

The earliest a special election could be held on the billboard matter, according to the council agenda item, would be Sept. 23.

However, the election could be scheduled on any Tuesday following that date, provided the date does not conflict with a state holiday.

“The cost for a non-consolidated special election is estimated to be $224,000,” the agenda item reads.

Tuesday’s council meeting begins at 6 p.m. in Santa Clarita City Hall, 23920 Valencia Blvd.

Signal City Editor Lila Littlejohn contributed reporting to this story.
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