UPDATE: Santa Clarita Officials Receive Signatures For Billboard Referendum
The opposition to a Santa Clarita-Metro deal to bring three large, two-sided electronic billboards next to Interstate 5 and Highway 14 and take down 118 smaller ones throughout the city handed over more than 11,000 signatures to the city Monday, officials said.
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A Facebook post Friday by Citizens Against Billboard Blight read: “WE WON AND HAVE THE NUMBERS.” On Monday, the city announced the signatures, which are part of a referndum effort to halt a billboard deal proposed by Metro, would be transported by Sheriff's Station officials to Norwalk.
A Monday news release from the city verified the receipt of 11,368 signatures on petitions inside 15 of the 28 boxes turned in to city officials Monday. The next step will be verification of those signatures.
A billboard lobbying group and Santa Clarita residents opposed to the city’s agreement with Metro and subcontractor Allvision -- to create billboards and more than $100 million in advertising revenue next to Interstate 5 and Highway 14 -- began a referendum April 3 to try and stop the deal.
If 11,170 signatures are verified, the City Clerk must certify results to the Santa Clarita City Council. The council may then either rescind the billboard ordinance or move it to an election (special election or placed on the November ballot).
The CABB group, which joined in the signature-gathering effort initiated by the California State Outdoor Advertising Association, delivered the signatures to Santa Clarita City Hall.
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.
To pass, a referendum needs approximately 10 percent of the city’s 111,697 registered voters, or 11,170, according to city officials. The City Clerk's Office will determine whether the referendum paperwork is complete; if it is, the city would contract with Los Angeles County for help verifying the signatures.
A California State Outdoor Advertising Agency official said the CSOAA budgeted approximately $30,000 to hire signature-gatherers to gain support throughout Santa Clarita. However, one CABB posting notes the pay per signature might as been as high as $7 in the final days.
At least one CABB member was more upset about the terms of the city's deal with Metro and how it was negotiated, as opposed to the deal itself.
“Citizens who showed up to complain at City Council meetings were mocked and derided,” said Patti Skinner Sulpizio, CABB organizer.
She referenced comments by former Santa Clarita City Councilman Frank Ferry, who mocked opposition to the billboard deal by saying most “normal people” don’t come to council meetings to complain.
Metro officials recently delayed considering the deal’s final approval pending the outcome of the referendum.
Related article: Metro Billboard Vote Gets Delayed By MTA Due To Referendum
In a previous interview, Sulpizio noted if Santa Clarita were to put up billboards, it should “get a goldmine” for them.
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, said Jim Cassie, executive director for the CSOAA.
“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.”
The deal calls for the approval of 50-year terms between the city, Metro and Allvision.
Talks with CBS and Clear Channel for compensation in the event of their billboards being taken down by Metro only reached preliminary stages, according to Paul Gonzalez, Metro spokesman.
The city recently negotiated a $1.3 million buyout of Newhall-based Edwards Outdoor Advertising, the third business that owned billboards along the Metro right of way and throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.
The billboard deal and subsequent referendum effort were followed by at least seven arrests -- of proponents from both sides of the issue -- at shopping centers throughout Santa Clarita.
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