California Coastal Commission Chairwoman Bonnie Neely has asked her staff to investigate whether nine billboards along Humboldt Bay violate state law.
The signs are on the North Coast Railroad Authority right-of-way between Arcata and Eureka on U.S. Highway 101. But the rail authority doesn't want them there, and is trying to have them removed.
But billboard owner CBS Outdoor won't budge, according to county Supervisor Clif Clendenen, the county's representative to the NCRA board, despite a lawsuit the board has filed. Clendenen described CBS' retention of the billboards as “trespassing on public property.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Caltrans and the Sierra Club have all voiced opposition to the billboards, which are among 30 total billboards on the highway between the two cities.
”I've asked commission staff to determine if these billboards are in violation of the California Coastal Act since they do not have the property owner's permission to be there,” said Neely, who is also Humboldt County's 4th District supervisor.
CBS Outdoors used to be named Viacom Outdoors, which was sued by the U.S. Attorney's Office in 2002 over six billboards that were standing on the bay side of the railroad tracks on Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge property.
The refuge had been returning lease payments to Viacom for 25 years. In December 2002, a settlement between the government and Viacom called for the billboards to be removed in 2003. Even then, refuge staff had to push Viacom to actually do the work, refuge Manager Eric Nelson said at the time.