City officials are scheduled to continue discussion today on whether the city will reverse its long-standing position and open its freeways to billboards--a move opposed by the city's staff, Planning Commission and some residents.
The city removed about 30 such billboards as part of its beautification program 20 years ago. In exchange, the city allowed up to eight billboards per intersection along city streets. Through the years, that exchange has translated to about 135 inner-city billboards.
Regency Outdoor Inc. petitioned the council to resurrect the billboard issue last year, proposing that the number of inner-city billboards be lowered from eight to four.
Floyd Farano, an attorney who represents Regency, has argued that under the company's proposal to allow about 23 billboards along freeways and, in a trade-off, lower by half the number of inner-city billboards allowed, the potential for the total number of billboards is considerably lowered.
But Annika M. Santalahti, Anaheim's assistant zoning director, questioned whether lowering the maximum allowed inside the city would make a difference on the total number of billboards. Currently, only one intersection in the city has eight, she said. Most have one or two billboards because of space limitations, objections by property owners or simply that the intersection is not enticing to billboard companies, she said.
In a report to the council last July, Santalahti compared the differences between the staff's and Regency's recommendations revising the current ordinance and wrote: "In summary, all of the significant differences between the two ordinances are solely to the benefit of the billboard companies." Regency's proposal, for example, reduces the allowable distance between signs from 1,000 feet to 500 feet.
City Council members, on a 3-2 vote, gave their initial support to Regency's proposal at their Feb. 4 meeting. Mayor Don Roth, Mayor Pro Tem Irv Pickler and Councilman Ben Bay voted for it while Councilwoman Miriam Kaywood and Councilman Lew Overholt voted against it. While the issue was originally scheduled for a final vote today, a decision is not expected for at least two more weeks while an environmental assessment is conducted, Santalahti said Monday.
The same council struck down a similar proposal in 1984 after hearing opposition by some leading businesses, its own staff, the Planning Commission and some residents.
The City Council meets today at 10 a.m. at City Hall, 200 S. Anaheim Blvd.