Oxnard officials have embarked on a campaign to eliminate hundreds of bootleg signs that are erected throughout the city each weekend to direct potential home buyers to new housing subdivisions.
Driven by complaints from angry homeowners, city planners are fashioning a coordinated advertising program that would group together up to a dozen subdivision signs on a single billboard, 9 feet tall by 3 feet wide.
Between 40 and 70 of the billboards could be placed throughout the city, and would be erected and removed each weekend. At the same time, staff members plan to begin enforcing city codes outlawing the smaller, illegal roadside signs.
"We have received a number of complaints about these signs," city planner Matthew Winegar said Wednesday. "Our goal is to eventually eliminate the bootleg signs from the city."
Some of the builders who erect signs each weekend to direct motorists to their subdivisions fear that the new restrictions could end up hurting home sales.
"Our largest source of traffic is bootleg signs," said Karen Van Winkle, marketing manager for Standard Pacific of Ventura, developer of the Summerfield and San Miguel tracts in Oxnard.
"But we want to be a good neighbor. We are not here to clutter up the landscape," Van Winkle added. "I live in Oxnard, and speaking as a homeowner, I'll be glad to see a lot of the clutter gone and this taking its place."
Added Chantel Laughton, marketing director for Woodland Hills-based Kaufman and Broad: "They are being very restrictive. We would like to have our own signs. We don't want to be sharing a sign with other people."
The problem used to be much worse, Winegar said.
The developer of a new housing tract in Port Hueneme used to erect 600 signs in Oxnard alone, Winegar said. City planners have persuaded builders to reduce the number of illegal signs over the years. Recently, the city fixed a cap of 50 signs per developer.
Still, hundreds of the directional placards go up each weekend.
Earlier this year, homeowners began complaining about the illegal signs being posted in landscaped areas that they pay city workers to maintain.
Faced with mounting opposition, city planners began formulating the program to group together subdivision signs on a single billboard and to crack down on illegal signs lining city roadways.
"They're kind of facing an all-or-nothing situation," Winegar said of builders wishing to advertise their housing tracts. "I think this is a reasonable compromise."
Advertising representatives say developers across Ventura County are finding it increasingly difficult to spread the word about their new subdivisions.
Last week, the Thousand Oaks City Council agreed to pay school crossing guards to drive around the city on weekends and remove illegal signs advertising new housing tracts.
Paul Brown of Paul H. Brown Advertising in Westlake Village helped Oxnard planners draw up the plan to put the subdivision signs on a single billboard. Brown represents many Oxnard builders and is responsible for erecting hundreds of the roadside signs each weekend.
"The sheer number of them is staggering," Brown said Wednesday. "But I've been trying to keep the town neat and clean."
Brown said he doesn't believe the single-billboard concept will have much of an effect on home sales.
"At first you'll probably see a little drop," he said. "It will take a few weeks for the town to get used to not having Day-Glo orange or shocking pink signs lining the roadway."