Digital billboards may get approved this time around

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside is in the early stages of reviewing proposals for two digital billboards. If approved the digital billboards would be the first of four the city’s sign ordinance allows.

The City Council last considered electronic billboards on city property in May 2015 and defeated the idea in a 2 to 3 vote, with Mayor Jim Wood and Councilman Jerry Kern in favor, and Councilwoman Esther Sanchez, Councilman Chuck Lowery and Councilman Jack Feller opposed.

Feller said he cast a no vote to request that standing static billboards be taken down when digital billboards are erected. He said current proposals are from companies that do not own billboards, so a sign reduction cannot happen.

“I’ve never been opposed to the technology,” Feller said.

Feller said he will likely support electronic billboards this time around as long as the proposals meet city rules.

A group of Oceanside residents is working to convince council members to vote down billboards proposed by BGT Media for state Route 78 and Rancho Del Oro Drive, and Lamar Advertising Company for state Route 76 and Airport Road.

Jane Marshall, president of the Oceanside Coastal Neighborhood Association (OCNA), is among those opposed to the blight and driving distraction electronic billboards bring. Marshall said she and other residents thought the previous no vote closed the discussion on digital billboards.

“Many of us believed this was the end of digital billboards,” Marshall said.

Richard Greenbauer, city principal planner, said as long as the ordinance stands there can be digital billboards. Proposed billboards must be on city property, meet environmental standards, secure a city property use agreement, and go through a public review process and public hearing.

“The ordinance was changed to allow electronic billboards,” Greenbauer said. “Ultimately the council has to sign off on it.”

The proposed electronic billboards are in the early stages of the approval process, and are undergoing environmental reviews.

Marshall said she and fellow residents were surprised to see notices for the proposed billboards after strong community opposition to the former proposal.

“The council is not listening,” Marshall said. “We’re looking at a better Oceanside. I don’t believe the signs enhance the image we’re trying to create.”

Residents who oppose the billboards are collecting signatures door-to-door, and notifying fellow residents through Nextdoor online posts and emails. Several residents spoke against digital billboards at the Feb. 17 council meeting.

Marshall said the opposition campaign has received tremendous support.

“In as little as three hours of a small team effort, we received over 200 signatures and ran out of petitions,” Marshall said.

Residents are continuing to collect signatures to let the City Council know where they stand.

Feller said he has heard from residents and understands their passion. He added he thinks digital billboards are a good way to advertise city businesses, and he does not find them to be a driving distracting.

The immediate goal of the residents is to stop the present applications.

The next steps would by to change the city ordinance to no longer allow electronic billboards.

The current sign ordinance, which allows digital billboards, was approved in 2012 by Wood, Kern, Feller and former Councilman Gary Felien. Sanchez opposed the ordinance.

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