Santa Clarita city officials are set to discuss a controversial proposal that would alter the cityscape and local advertising at a Feb. 25 City Council meeting, officials said Friday.
A proposal brought to the city by Metro would get rid of 118 billboards on 62 structures in favor of three prominent electronic billboards located on city-owned property near Interstate 5 and Highway 14, according to a website the city created for the billboard proposal.
The deal, which has been OK’ed by the Santa Clarita Planning Commission, has been praised by supporters who claim getting rid of the billboards would beautify the city, and decried by opponents who say officials are trading one blight for another while hurting local business.
A website created by Santa Clarita officials to gauge residents’ response demonstrates the spectrum of views, with more than 70 pieces of feedback since the site was created in December.
“Well, the benefits are, of course, now the city has removed a lot of blight and can beautify the city, and you’re knocking down some 60 signs that litter the area,” said Roger Moliere, chief of real property and economic development for Metro, which acquired the right of way for the land where the billboards in question reside in the 1990s.
“For that, you’re able to then place signs in an appropriate spot that is not intrusive into residential areas,” he said.
One of the most ardent opponents of the other side of the coin, or billboard, in this case, comes from Julie Edwards, manager of Edwards Outdoor Signs from the family business’s Newhall office on Placeritos Road.
“It’s hurt my business, regardless of whether or not this thing goes through,” Edwards-Sanchez said. “I’ve had to shorten my leases, because we’re not sure what’s going to happen.”
Edwards Outdoor owns 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.”
The business was started 50 years ago, and the signs Edwards owns on Metro property have been around since before the city, she said.
She approached the city about six years ago with a similar proposal, Edwards said, but was rebuffed because she didn’t own the land and therefore could not guarantee more billboards would replace her own.
City officials said that’s only become a viable option with the recent proposal from Metro.
From the city’s perspective, the plan is not about the potential for $450-600,000 in revenue that would result from Metro’s proposal, said Gail Morgan, city spokeswoman for Santa Clarita.
It’s always been about beautifying the city by getting rid of the billboards, she said.
“We have been trying for years to get rid of the billboards, especially along the Metro right of way and found it’s been very expensive to do that,” she said, alluding to past negotiations between city officials and Edwards Outdoor.
Business owners contacted KHTS AM-1220 regarding concerns over their ability to advertise under this new proposal, fearing they’d be priced out and not have the benefit of directional advertising.
“(A local billboard option) makes it a very economical way to let people know that you’re still around,” said Ed Bernstein of Santa Clarita-based 25Score, noting that he and many of his clients rely on billboard advertising.
The negotiation in place guarantees that no one company could create an exclusive contract with Metro and Allvision, the company Metro contracted to create the proposal, according to city officials.
The three signs would be 14-feet-by-48-feet in size, and sit on 50-60-foot-tall poles, according to city information.
The verbiage in the proposal also would preclude Allvision and Metro from advertising “tobacco products, medical marijuana, adult businesses, as well as all political advertising.”
The Santa Clarita Planning Commission voted 3-1 to recommend the proposal in January, with Commissioner Lisa Eichman opposed and Commissioner Dennis Ostrom absent.
Part of the Planning Commission’s decision was to direct city staff to negotiate with Edwards Outdoor Signs to see if an amenable agreement could be reached.
City officials said they could not discuss any details regarding negotiations with Edwards Outdoor Signs, because the talks are ongoing.
They did confirm discussions with the other billboard owners, specifically Clear Channel and CBS, were being handled by Metro, and not by Santa Clarita officials.
“I’m not saying that the billboards need to stay,” Eichman said, but she wanted to see mitigation between Metro and the billboard owners.
“I find billboards far more attractive than ‘For lease’ or ‘Going out of business’ signs,” Bernstein said. “That traffic (local businesses get from those billboards because they can’t put up signs, is their last vestige.”