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Santa Clarita billboard deal may be derailed

Posted: March 7, 2014 11:46 a.m.
Updated: March 7, 2014 11:46 a.m.

A controversial plan to replace 118 billboards in Santa Clarita with three electronic boards on Santa Clarita Valley freeways may be sidelined by a disagreement between the city and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

When the Santa Clarita City Council approved the plan on a 3-1 vote Feb. 25, it did so after introducing 13 separate changes to the language of the agreement with Metro.

One change proposed by the council was indemnity language related to traffic accidents — language that would basically ensure that Metro, not the city, would be responsible for any costs of lawsuits filed over claims the freeway billboards resulted in traffic collisions, city spokeswoman Gail Morgan said Friday.

“The city wanted to make sure that, as much as is possible, this proposal was bulletproof and the city would be protected from lawsuits,” Morgan said,

But when it came time to actually put the council’s conditions into writing, Metro staff members told the city they were not willing to recommend the Metro board approve the changes, according to an agenda item for next Tuesday City Council meeting.

The billboard issue was due for a second reading and final approval Tuesday.

“So the city manager is now recommending the project be denied because Metro cannot fulfill the council’s request regarding indemnification issues, specifically auto accidents that could be caused, allegedly, by the new billboards,” Morgan said.

The initial plan called for 118 billboards on 62 structures around the city to be taken down and replaced by three digital billboards near Interstate 5 and Highway 14.

The plan was proposed by Metro, which owns the land where the billboards are placed, mostly along Railroad Avenue and Soledad Canyon Road.

Its proposal tied in with a longtime city goal of removing unsightly billboards around the area. But when brought to the public, the plan met with an outcry of objections over the digital billboards.

Council members on Tuesday will consider a staff recommendation to deny the project application. Metro does have the option of submitting a new project application if that happens, according to the City Council agenda.

Another possibility is that Metro representatives could indicate they are willing to move forward with the language that was modified by the City Council and bring the revised language back at a later date, perhaps the following City Council meeting on March 25.

Councilman TimBen Boydston cast the lone dissenting vote against the project on Feb. 25. Mayor Laurene Weste abstained.

Officials from Metro could not be reached for comment Friday.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney


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