Protests not enough to sway council members on billboard proposal

by Jesse Canales 0

On Tuesday, just before midnight, Santa Clarita council members voted in favor passing the controversial billboard proposal despite oppositional testimony from residents

Before the council members voted in favor of the billboard proposal 3 to 1, several disgruntled Santa Clarita residents held a rally outside city hall .

The proposal will  remove several billboards around Santa Clarita and develop three digital billboards (with six billboard faces) on three freeway-adjacent city-owned sites for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Metro will also receive a 50-year lease for the city-owned sites.

“The proposal itself is for 50 years and the people who are going to be voting on it are going to be dead by the time anyone can address the issue again and that is what concerns people,” city council candidate Stephen Daniels said. 

The protesters felt that some city council members no longer valued their opinions.

“Council member Frank Ferry made a remark at the last meeting that the people who come to these meetings are ‘not normal people.’ That’s insulting. The position of city council is one that should be treated as respect to voters and that comes across as nothing but arrogance.”

Michael Oliveri a Santa Clarita resident who protested the billboard proposal said, “I came to one meeting seven weeks ago and in my feeling the way the city council acted was shocking.  They didn’t read the proposals, they didn’t go with the $3 million that Clear Channel offered they went with one company Allvision.”

One of the biggest controversies surrounding the proposal was the re-zoning of “open space” to “business park” despite some sites being protected by the Highway Beautification Act of 1965.

Alan Ferdman, a city council candidate, says the city reneged on their promises.

“When the city council makes a commitment and tells us we are buying land because we want to preserve it as natural state in perpetuity we hear that all the time. When they make that commitment to the community I also think it is wrong to turn around and say now ‘well that commitment is not valid because I can make a few dollars.'”

The Norland Road, a city-owned site where the billboard would be placed, is on the south side of the 14 freeway and is considered “open space.” The other two sites where the billboards will be placed are near Sierra Highway and another on Magic Mountain Parkway.

Stacy Miller, a representative of the California State Outdoor Advertising Association attended the city council meeting. Miller says advertisers are being left out of the debate and ought to be compensated.

“The static billboards that we are talking about removing are property of the billboard industry … We’re concerned with the process by which this happened,” said Miller.

Metro will remove all 62 static billboards which currently exist in  the Metro right-of-way within city boundaries along the major corridors of Soledad Canyon Road, Bouquet Road, Sierra Highway, Railroad Avenue and Newhall Avenue.

Owners of the billboards believe they should have been brought into discussions on the billboard proposal before a deal has been made, as well as compensated for the removal of their property. Billboard owners do not seek litigation but rather hope to reach a deal with the city of Santa Clarita and Metro.

“We will however protect our private property and assets,” Miller said.

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