Coastal commission wins round in fight over Highway 101 safety corridor


After nearly a year in civil court, advertising giant CBS Outdoor Inc.’s bid to strip a billboard removal clause from the Eureka-Arcata Safety Corridor improvement project was dismissed by a Humboldt County Superior Court judge on Wednesday — but the battle of the billboards may not be over yet.

CBS Outdoor Inc., which owns several billboards in Humboldt County, filed a writ of mandate against the California Coastal Commission, Caltrans, and the Humboldt County Association of Governments in January 2014 after the commission decided to require Caltrans to remove as many billboards as feasible as part of the agency’s Eureka-Arcata Route 101 Corridor Improvement Project. Caltrans agreed to the requirements in November 2013. The $46 million project proposes to improve safety conditions along the 6-mile corridor by closing several median crossings and constructing a raised interchange at the Indianola Cutoff.


In the face of significant public outcry, including an online petition with more than 650 signatures as well as roughly a dozen public speakers at today’s General Plan Update meeting, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors reversed its previous straw vote and unanimously agreed to ban off-site electronic billboards in the next draft of the general plan.


At the start of the meeting, a long line of people voiced their opinions on digital billboards, using such adjectives as “horrendous,” “distracting,” “awful” and “hideous.” Only one person, a local sign business owner, spoke in favor of the board’s previous vote.


When it came time for the board to discuss the matter, 4th District Supervisor Virginia Bass said, “It’s been a really interesting couple of weeks,” filled, she added, with discussions with constituents as well as research from county staff.


First District Supervisor Rex Bohn noted that there has never been a ban on electronic billboards, and 5th District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg said he appreciated hearing from people, though he doesn’t care for some of the disrespectful messages he received.


Ultimately, though, all five supervisors voted to go back to the recommendation of the Planning Commission, which called for a ban on billboards located somewhere besides the location of the business being advertised.


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Member take straw vote on when permits needed


The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors straw voted during its Monday review of the draft General Plan Update’s Scenic Resources section to allow billboard owners to repair or reconstruct their signs — whether it be from vandalism or not — without having to obtain a conditional use permit beforehand.


Billboards around Humboldt Bay are dropping like flies. Two more have now been felled — the ones you saw on your way into Arcata from Manila on State Route 255/Samoa Blvd. They disappeared sometime in the last few days with no notice or public explanation. But unlike the first, second and third ones chopped down, these demolitions were not the work of vandals.