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Build a Billboard, Take a Few Down: Clear Channel Becomes First to Partake in Long Beach Billboard Ordinance

Back in 2007, then-Planning Administrator Derek Burnham, working with the now dissolved Redevelopment Agency (RDA) and its chair, Bill Baker, there was a glaring issue that blighted many neighborhoods: billboards. Atop small, two story buildings. Sitting on apartment complexes. Stretching above residential zones.

These tacky billboards were there legally but were non-compliant, meaning that the only reason they exist in the first place is due to the fact that they were installed before certain zoning codes existed.

“We had to to wonder, ‘How can we get these things removed?’” Burnham said. “It was then we discovered a provision in the zoning code that allowed the amortization of billboards. Planning Bureau begins providing notice to billboard companies to remove certain nonconforming billboards, as allowed under the existing ordinance at the time.”

In 2008, a moratorium on new billboards was put in place to make way for a proposal to remove the billboards but was ultimately shot down. In the words of Burnham, when you’re dealing with what is essentially a trade scheme, the fact that it’s new means it will be both contentious and argumentative. 2011 then marked the first billboard ordinance presented to City Council, including cap and trade provisions.

In other words, for any new billboards an advertising company wishes to install in the city, we could require them to remove a certain number of non-compliant billboards already in their inventory. The research for this was largely led by Scott Kinsey of the Planning Department.

In October of 2013, the Department of Development Services unveiled a newer plan that would address advertisers’ desire to place new electronic billboards while decreasing static, non-compliant ones. Moving the new billboards to freeways only, each new electronic one will require an 8:1 removal process (i.e. if the new billboard is 1,000 sq. ft. in size, 8,000 sq. ft. of static, non-compliant billboards will have to be removed from the city) while each new static billboard will require a 2:1 removal process. Should the new billboard not increase in size, the removal ratio will be 4:1. The billboard companies will have to fit the cost of both the building of the new billboards and the removal of the old ones. The removal of the old ones will also have to be complete before the new ones are installed.After nine months of debates and revisions, the ordinance was finally passed in July of this year.

Though months have passed, today marks the first time a company will take advantage of the ordinance. Clear Channel, one of the nation’s largest owner of billboards, will propose two new electronic billboards along the 710 freeway, one near the 91 freeway exchange and the other near Pacific Coast Highway.

According to Clear Channel’s proposal, two 14×48 foot double-sided electronic will be installed. In exchange, Clear Channel has agreed to remove 36 non-conforming signs.

Not bad, Long Beach, not bad.

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3 Comments

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