Planning Commission moves billboard ban forward

OCEANSIDE — The Planning Commission gave a green light to a billboard ban on Monday, as part of a group of approved Coastal Zone Amendments.

Most of the amendments are a formal adoption of current city inland zoning regulations for the coastline. Changes repeal 23 articles and update nine articles, to ensure consistent citywide regulations and development standards.

New sign regulations ban billboards on city property including digital billboards, which the city recently considered. Rules also allow digital window and building signs on private property.

Oceanside adopted an ordinance to allow four digital billboards on city property in 2012. Three companies were approved to negotiate with the city, BGT Media LCC, Outfront Media and Lamar Outdoor Advertising.

BGT Media proposed a digital billboard along state Route 78 in June 2015, but was denied.

In April City Council met in closed session to discuss three digital billboard sites, and possible proposals by approved companies. There has not been a formal report from the closed session, but planning staff announced that they were drafting a sign ordinance change that same month.

Residents have strongly opposed digital billboards each time they have been proposed. A couple dozen residents were at the Monday meeting wearing “no digital billboard” badges.

Tom Missett, a partner in BGT Media, was also at the meeting, but did not speak to the commission, and declined to give a comment to The Coast News.

Speakers agreed with the ban on billboards, but spoke against proposed allowance of digital signs on shop windows and sides of large businesses.

Proposed regulations allow five current business to display large digital wall signs. Rules ask that the site is a minimum of three acres; located 150 feet from Interstate 5, SR-78 or state Route 76; and 500 feet from residents. Digital window signs are limited to 20 percent of the window surface.

Residents’ complaints included the blight, driver distraction and light issues the signs would cause.

Hunt said he would “like to hear both sides” before scrapping the allowance of digital signs on private property. He added there has been no public review process on either sign ordinance change, with the exception of the commission meeting and upcoming council meeting.

There was also expressed concern from residents that there was no opportunity for public review of digital signs under the drafted ordinance, which allows approval by the city planner.

“The revised sign ordinance skirts the will of the people,” Oceanside resident Kevin Brown said. “Digital signs need to be reviewed by the Planning Commission, and have public notification.”

The size allowance was also questioned.

“Mossy Nissan could have 70 percent of their building covered with a digital sign,” Oceanside resident Patricia Brown said. “You can call it what ever you want. You’re allowing on site digital billboards.”

Commissioners also questioned sign regulations, and requested that all proposed digital signs go through the Planning Commission for public review.

“It’s our responsibility to at least have a review,” Commissioner John Scrivener said.

Coastal Zone Amendments, with the additional digital sign review requirement, will go to the City Council for final approval this summer. The state Coastal Commission must also certify changes.

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