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Council to vote on political sign fees

Posted: June 8, 2012 5:35 p.m.
Updated: June 8, 2012 5:35 p.m.

The Santa Clarita City Council is scheduled to decide Tuesday if people who place signs - including political ones - in public rights-of-way should pay city-imposed fines if they want to pick up their signs.

Councilman TimBen Boydston said Friday he was concerned the rule might infringe on political free speech.

Only incumbents were briefed on the existing sign ordinance, leaving challengers at a disadvantage, he said.

"I want to make sure the playing field is level for people who want to run for office," Boydston said.

Of the four City Council candidates who had signs confiscated from public rights-of-way during the spring election, Boydston would have to pay the most - more than $250 - to collect his signs.

Last February the Santa Clarita City Council passed an update to the city's non-commercial sign ordinance, which regulates political signs, that prohibits signs from being posted in the public right of way, limits each sign's area to 32 square feet, and imposes a $50 fine for a first offense.

People who violate the sign code a second time would face a $100 penalty for each illegally posted sign, and $250 per sign for a third violation.

The ordinance states that the city "may" issue administrative citations if people want to retrieve signs the were removed from the public right of way.

"An administrative citation may only be administered if someone wants to pick up their signs," said City Attorney Joe Montes.

During campaigning for the April 10 City Council election, the four candidates who put up signs all had at least one sign placed in the public right of way, according to information provided by city staff.

Boydston, who was not an incumbent, had 30 signs confiscated from the right of way and would have to pay $2,850 if he wanted to pick them up.

Challenger Jon Hatami had 12 signs in the right of way and would have had to pay $650 to pick up the signs.

Then-Mayor Laurie Ender had nine offending signs and would have had to pay $50 to pick them up, and Councilman Bob Kellar had one offending sign and would have had to pay $50 for pickup.

If the signs aren't picked up, the owner wouldn't be charged a fine, but the signs may be destroyed within 10 days of confiscation, according to the ordinance.

So far the city has not destroyed any of the signs picked up during the April election, according to a staff report.

Boydston said he was advised he would either have to pay the fine to get his signs back or give up his signs if he wasn't to recuse himself from Tuesday's vote.

"I have to ask the city attorney a couple of questions at the meeting, but I'm pretty sure I'll be giving up the signs so I can speak," Boydston said.





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