California City Considers Banning Billboards

<p>Following the example set by Sao Paulo, Brazil, the city of Encinitas, California is considering a plan to ban new billboard advertisements within the city.</p>
June 6, 2008, 12pm PDT | Tim Halbur
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"Members of the public will have a chance to weigh in Thursday on a proposal to make permanent some changes to the city's sign ordinance that would protect its ban on new billboards."

"On April 23, the City Council adopted a temporary "urgency ordinance" designed to close legal loopholes in Encinitas' existing sign laws. The change, in part, allows owners of existing billboards or other signs to switch their message from a commercial advertisement to some other type of communication.

The City Council adopted the urgency measure after someone asked about a permit for a new billboard in town and the city realized its sign ordinance was not constitutionally sound, officials said.

In other cities, recent court rulings have found that sign ordinances are an unconstitutional restriction on free speech if they don't include a so-called sign message substitution clause.

Pat Murphy, the city's director of Community Development, said businesses have used those rulings to circumvent other cities' ban on billboards. "We have been working on a revised sign ordinance knowing that ours was not constitutionally correct," he said.

The new ordinance also states that existing billboards are exempt from the ban, and that the city may consider agreements allowing those signs to be relocated."

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Published on Wednesday, June 4, 2008 in The North County Times
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