A group of Santa Clarita residents joined up with the California State Outdoor Advertising Association, which is seeking a referendum to slow the city’s effort with Metro to build electronic billboards.
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The residents, some of whom are informally coalesced through a Facebook group called Citizens Against Billboard Blight, do not necessarily want to stop electronic billboards — but they’re not happy with how city officials have acted in regard to the billboard deal with Metro, said Patti Sulpizio, a Valencia resident who said she was against the electronic billboards.
“I don’t like the digital billboards at all, I consider them blight. That’s not the image of Santa Clarita that I want to see,” Sulpizio said.
However, Sulpizio also considered herself “a realist,” she said. “If we’re going to sell out to that — we’re putting a digital billboard on the I-5 corridor — then Santa Clarita should get a gold mine for that.”
Related article: Santa Clarita City Council OKs Metro Billboard Deal In 3-1 Vote
The plan, which was approved by Santa Clarita council members in March, calls for Metro to help in the City Council’s desire to remove 118 billboard faces throughout Santa Clarita on Metro-controlled property, in exchange for three large electronic two-sided billboards — two signs adjacent to Highway 14, and one next to Interstate 5 — on city land.
Metro is agreeing to contract with Allvision to pay for the construction of the six 14-foot by 48-foot billboard faces 65 feet in the air, agreeing to share a portion of the revenue with the city, as well as a small portion of peak advertising time. Metro is responsible for acquiring all permits needed for the project, as well as taking down the old billboards.
A handful of residents spoke in favor of the deal at the Santa Clarita City Council meeting in March when the deal was approved, and more than two dozen spoke in opposition. There are currently 81 “Likes” on the Citizens Against Billboard Blight page on Facebook.
California State Outdoor Advertising Agency officials have budgeted about $20,000 to $30,000 to support the referendum with signature-gatherers, according to Jim Cassie, executive director for the CSOAA.
The CSOAA represents 15 companies involved in billboard advertising, including CBS and Clear Channel, which are two of the companies that own billboards in the Metro right of way. CBS is not taking part in the referendum, Cassie said.
“We think that the city using a middleman, in this case, Allvision, to act as a broker for future billboard activity, is the wrong way to go,” Cassie said, “And beyond that, we don’t think it’s right.”
If the referendum is successful, it would do one of two things: It would force the city to put the Metro deal on the ballot for residents, or it would force the city to rescind the deal, prompting at least a one-year delay while any details would have to be reworked.
Those in favor of the Metro deal cited support of moving the billboards from throughout Santa Clarita to closer to the edge of town.
“(The Soledad Canyon Road corridor) looks terrible, and I support this reduction and relocation agreement for one major reason,” said longtime Santa Clarita resident Richard Green. “When I drive down Railroad Avenue, it’s scum — we’re running a profitable well run city here.”
Santa Clarita City Council members voted 3-1 on March 25 to approve a Metro billboard deal, after several hours of discussion Tuesday at City Hall.
Santa Clarita City Councilman TimBen Boydston was the lone vote against the deal. Mayor Laurene Weste recused herself from the vote because she owned property within 500 feet of more than one billboard location.
The MTA Executive Committee, which makes recommendations to Metro, delayed approving the deal for one month, in order to see whether the referendum would be able to gather enough signatures.
Related article: Metro Billboard Vote Gets Delayed By MTA Due To Referendum
The CSOAA wants fairness and the best deal possible, Cassie said, while acknowledging that acquiring the more than 11,000 signatures needed to pass a referendum would be “a daunting task.”
Those seeking signatures for the referendum were confronted at several shopping centers on Saturday, leading to the arrest of one of the signature-gatherers for assault — Sheriff’s Station officials said an alleged victim reported Kimberly Franklin punched her hand.
There were arguments at all of the Walmarts where there were petitioners, but there was only one arrest. Referendum supporters have made claims online that the opposition was staged, however no one has claimed responsibility for the incidents.
“Anyone who blocks the referendum,” Sulpizio said, “is blocking the democratic process.”
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Source: Santa Clarita News