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Billboard Battle

| Gazette, News | January 24, 2014

The potential closing of a historic small business, a substantial increase in city revenue, and the use of open space land are just a few of the many reasons Santa Clarita City citizens are raising concern over a new billboard proposal that passed the city planning commission this month.

Details of the deal involve the removal of 118 static billboards that line the railroad right-of-way, primarily along Soledad Canyon and Railroad Avenue. For years, City officials have considered the signs an aesthetic ‘’blight,’’ but have not had any way to get rid of them.

The signs, in their close proximity to the railroad, still sit on land owned by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. There has been no incentive for L.A. Metro to give up the billboards in past years. The agency collected a consistent profit from leasing the land to local signage companies, who sell the billboard space.

Metro’s thinking changed recently, however, when All Vision, a multi-national consulting firm, presented the agency with a concept to give the City of Santa Clarita what it wanted, while getting the chance to make a substantial increase in revenue. In an analysis of outdoor advertising market trends, All Vision observed current trending, such as static billboards transitioning to digital billboards, which cost less and make much more profit, considering their ability to show several ads per today and be operated by a computer.

The revelations materialized in this month’s proposal, which stipulates that, in return for canceling the lease on the 118 billboards by the railroad, L.A. Metro must receive permits from Santa Clarita City Council for three digital billboards along the freeway, according to www.billboards.santaclarita.com, a city resource for the issue. In return, Santa Clarita will participate in the revenue sharing from the new billboards. Figures from City officials estimate the deal could bring as much as 600k to the city annually.

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However, according to sources close to the situation, the deal is expected to be the end of Edwards Outdoor Signs & Advertising, a Santa Clarita small business that has been operating for the past 50 years and is the largest owner of billboards on the railroad right of way.

‘’Those billboards represent 70 percent of Edwards’ revenue they will not be able to recover,’’ said Ed Bernstein, owner of 25 Score.

Bernstein said the deal sets a dangerous precedent for the actions of local government, when a city can pass an ordinance that drives a company out of business and then proceeds to get in on the business of that particular fallen private entity.

‘’It would be like if the city said they didn’t like Subway® Sandwiches, so they canceled all leases from Subway®, and then proceeded to replace Subway® with a deli sponsored by city hall,’’ Bernstein said.

Also a concern for the citizenry is the planned placement of one of the digital billboards along the Sand Canyon section of the 14 freeway, a region currently designated for open space. The City Council is due to vote on the full proposal in February.

 

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