Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, March 28, 2002


Page 11


Council Lends Support to Legislation Aimed at Restricting Billboards Along Freeways


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The City Council yesterday lent its unanimous support to a state Senate bill aimed at giving local governments the right to control billboards along state freeways and highways within their jurisdiction.

SB 1480, written by Sen. Jackie Speier, D-San Francisco, would increase the minimum distances between billboards from 500 to 1,000 feet alongside freeways and highways, and the minimum distance billboards can be from the freeway.

The bill is being sponsored by Caltrans.

The voicing of support for the bill is the latest in a string of moves by the council to stamp out visual blight in any way it can, ensuring that the city’s 50-year-old local ordinance banning freeway billboards will remain intact.

“This just makes it crystal clear that the state won’t override how local governments control their billboards,” Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski said.

Last spring, the City Council issued a moratorium on new billboard permits to give officials time to come up with new restrictions to help reduce visual blight and put teeth into efforts to remove illegal signs.

And just two weeks ago the Los Angeles City Planning Commission recommended that new billboards be banned in the city and rejected a proposal to allow them along freeways in exchange for the removal of 2,000 signs elsewhere in the city.

“Not one citizen stood up and said lets put billboards up along our freeways,” Miscikowski said, referring to the hearings held by the planning commission.

Earlier this year the city went to court to fight the 11th hour installation of dozens of  billboards erected by a billboard company on land owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority just hours before a state law went into effect requiring billboard companies to obtain the necessary local permits before building on MTA property.

About 40 percent of the city’s estimated 10,000 billboards are illegal, with the majority violating their original permits by being enlarged since they were first erected.

Miscikowski said several major cities have worked hard to prevent visual blight, including San Diego which has banned billboards and San Francisco just recently passed an ordinance restricting billboards.

“I think there is a recognition that we need to take a strong stand, both locally and statewide, on billboards,” the councilwoman said.

SB 1480 would require any billboard that does not conform with the minimum distance requirement be removed. And if it is not removed after 30 days, a $10,000 penalty would be assessed, plus an additional $100 for each day the billboard is maintained.


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company