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Santa Clarita City Council Discuss Free Speech, Bridgeport

Santa Clarita City Council members sent staffers back to the drawing board on a sign ordinance and OK’ed a hybrid plan to bring a park and a parking lot to Bridgeport Marketplace on Tuesday.

The ordinance came in response to myriad concerns regarding election time signage that proliferated around the city.


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However, council members brought up concerns that evolved into a discussion of free speech issues and whether residents would want to tolerate an ordinance that would open the floodgates for residents to post whatever signs they want on public property in the 45-day runup to a local election.

“This could open up a door to things we can’t imagine,” said City Councilwoman Marsha McLean, expressing concern that people might use the ordinance as a free pass to put up hate speech or material that could be deemed inappropriate by community standards.

Mayor Bob Kellar seconded her concern, mentioning the cost of removing signage all over the city’s miles of public land, and potential liabilities.

“We spend a lot of time keeping this community clean,” he said. “I don’t think it’s right to start taking signs and start plastering them all over our medians and property. There are all kinds of ramifications.”

Kellar rhetorically asked what would happen if someone said a sign in a traffic median obstructed their view and caused a car crash -- someone could try and sue the city.

Councilman TimBen Boydston liked the idea of free reign, if only during election time, in regard to the signage, harkening back to when he was a youth and remembered seeing signs all over the place during election time.

It was a reminder that: “This is a democracy, and we’re in the middle of it,” he said, referring to the election runup as a “wild, free speech time,”

City Manager Ken Striplin said based on the council consensus, which was opposed to the ordinance as it was written, he would direct city staff to revise the ordinance before another vote was taken.

The Bridgeport Marketplace plan, which Boydston called a “win-win,” seemed to garner an easier consensus.

The proposal, which was OK’d by city planners in December, called for 2.6 acres of park next to 2.4 acres of parking lot in a 5-acre lot near Real Life Church in Valencia, near Grandview Drive and Mariner Way.

It was touted as a way for the city to address the needs of residents while adding more green space to the city.

Bridgeport Marketplace officials, who own the lot, would pay for and design the park and parking lot, and then hand control of the park over to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, according to Rick Gould, director of the department.

It was approved with a 5-0 vote.

Click here for a link to the first draft of the city's sign ordinance that was debated Tuesday.


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