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Local company picks up tab for pet waste bags

ENCINITAS — City Council voted unanimously June 15 to approve a plan allowing a private company to attach advertising to signs at the city’s 19 locations where Mutt Mitts are dispensed.
C.A. Advertising, a Cardiff by-the-Sea-based company, proposed an exchange with the city where the company plans to pay for the $16,000 that the city currently spends to supply the dog waste baggies at several parks and trail heads.
In exchange for the funds, C.A. Advertising would place a 1-square-foot sign above each of the Mutt Mitt dispensers in Encinitas. The agency would then sell advertising spots on those signs. Each sign could fit up to 10 different ads, according to the company’s President Meghan Kudera.
Many residents had no idea that their tax dollars were used to subsidize the pet waste bags. “I really never thought about where these came from,” Beth Merimann said, pointing to a dispenser. “It seems a little ridiculous that dog owners have to be given bags as an incentive to clean up after their pets.”
The parks and recreation commission voted 4-1 to accept Kudera’s proposal before the item went to the council. The proposal signals the first time that permanent advertising will be allowed in an Encinitas city park according to Jim O’Grady, the city’s interim parks and recreation director.
Kudera said she got the idea while she was walking her own dog and noticed that people were placing business cards on the distribution posts. The city currently purchases 368,000 bags per year to supply the distribution posts.
“I’m here to be the bridge between small businesses and the city,” she told the council. Kudera claimed there are 40,000 dogs in Encinitas, which generate 75 percent of the waste found in parks. A biologist by education, Kudera said the opportunity to advertise at one of the doggie waste posts could generate revenue for local businesses, ensure cleaner parks and save the city money. “The environment will be cleaner,” she told the council.
Kudera promised to keep the signs unobtrusive. “Natural beauty is why we love it (here),” she said. The bags are also made in America, Kudera added.
She said the approved list of potential advertisers was narrowed by any business that did not abide by a set code of ethics.
“Good on ya,” said Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks after Kudera made her presentation. He questioned the provision that gave the city additional revenue based on profits. The company would also provide the city with 10 percent of its net profits. That could mean an additional $200 to $800 in revenues each year, according to Kudera. “How are you going to make any money?” Stocks asked. While that projection amounts to less total profits than the $16,000 in Mutt Mitt expenses, Kudera said she hopes to expand the program.
Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan voiced some concerns over setting a precedent by accepting the proposal. “I don’t want the city to be for sale to the highest bidder,” she said.
“The city would have absolute sole discretion in choosing the vendor,” City Attorney Glenn Sabine said. “You can decide this on a case by case basis. You could address this as a policy.”
Community groups and nonprofits might be added to the mix of advertisers if Councilwoman Kristen Gaspar had her way. She said she could imagine the Lion’s Club on a sign.
“A public/private partnership is a little out of the box, but I think that’s what we are going to have to be looking for doing over the next 10 years,” Councilwoman Teresa Barth said.
Houlihan and Stocks will serve on a sub-committee to work out the specifics of the agreement.
For more information about C.A. Advertising, visit