[KHTS] – A proposal by the Metropolitan Transit Authority to remove 118 billboards in the Santa Clarita Valley in exchange for three digital billboards along Interstate 5 and State Route 14 will be going before the City Council, thanks to a recommendation by the Planning Commission on Tuesday.
The commission voted 3-1 to recommend the proposal, with Commissioner Lisa Eichman opposed and Commissioner Dennis Ostrom absent.
The proposal involves removing 62 billboard structures along the Metro railroad right-of-way, primarily along Soledad Canyon Road and Railroad Avenue, in exchange for for three digital billboards along Interstate 5 and State Route 14.
Billboard removal has long been a goal of city staff, but purchasing billboard in order to take them down was never financially feasible, according to the city site Billboards.Santa-Clarita.com, which was launched in early December 2013.
The new city site describes it as a 20:1 removal ratio, replacing 25,830 square feet of traditional billboard space with 4,032 square feet of digital space.
The city would also earn a portion of the ad revenue from the digital billboards, as much as $450,000 a year, because they would be built on city-owned property.
But Eichman, who voted against the proposal, said she believed that removing the billboards would harm the local businesses who own them.
The billboards along the Metro right-of-way are owned by Clear Channel, CBS and Edwards Outdoor Advertising, said Julie Edwards-Sanchez, Edwards managing owner.
Edwards, a Newhall-based company, has been in Southern California for 50 years, according to their website.
They own billboards in Newhall, Saugus, Canyon Country, Acton and Palmdale, but Edwards-Sanchez said that her company would receive no compensation from Metro if billboards in Santa Clarita are removed.
“It would be devastating,” she said. “It could wipe out more than half my income.”
Eichman said that she voted against the proposal because she did not want her name attached to something that could be detrimental to local small businesses.
“I’m not saying that the billboards need to stay,” she said, but she wanted to see mitigation between Metro and the billboard owners.
Edwards-Sanchez said that because Metro owns the land that Edwards Advertising leases, they have the right to remove the billboards.
But she still characterized the proposal as unfair.
“The MTA is using our assets to negotiate a deal with the city to enter private industry,” she said.
Eichman likened it to Wal-Mart putting smaller stores out of business.
The representatives with the city of Santa Clarita or Metro could not be reached for comment as of 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
The billboard proposal will be up for public comment again at two upcoming city council meetings. Residents can also express their views on the city’s billboard website, [here].