What is the ugliest, most annoying highway feature driving west at night from Reno to Truckee?
Answer: The giant, blinding Boomtown electronic billboard that lights up the sky, visible to our astronauts and alien creatures on other planets. How could anyone have approved that monstrous blight on such a scenic highway?
The Lamar billboard company applied to the California Department of Transportation for a permit for an electronic “message center” next to Highway 58, the Rosedale Highway, in Kern County just outside Bakersfield.
Lamar’s flashing sign replaced a 1995 wooden, double-sided “static” billboard. I am not saying this is the most scenic part of California, but an electronic billboard can only make it worse.
The court opinion described the sign as “a ‘flat screen’ messaging area with light-emitting diodes or LED’s. Each message lasts about five seconds, one entire cycle lasts about 25 seconds, and then repeats.”
On a good day, an offended driver can speed up and only be subject to three advertisements. In slow moving traffic it’s like going to a drive-in horror movie.
Lamar’s application was denied by DOT because it was located within 1,000 feet of not one but two already-existing electronic billboards on the same side of Highway 58. That alone makes me want to steer clear of the Rosedale Highway.
Lamar sued to challenge the DOT’s denial of its permit. The Department filed its own lawsuit demanding that Lamar cease using its electronic message sign. The trial court ruled for the Department. Lamar appealed.
OUTDOOR ADVERTISING ACT
California has had laws regulating outdoor advertising adjacent to public highways since the early 1930s. There is a general prohibition against outdoor advertising within 660 feet of the edge of interstate and primary highways.
The 660-foot restricted area has been on the books for almost 50 years; however, the exceptions to the law are extensive.
Old laws limited billboards to advertise only for an on-premise business, but in the late 1980s the outdoor highway display advertising laws were liberalized.
ELECTRIC SIGN LIMITS
About that same time, one outdoor advertising code imposed a 1,000-ft. spacing requirement between electronic billboards. Thank God for small favors.
The Court of Appeal spent the majority of its opinion analyzing whether a 1,000 ft. separation between electronic signs was the law or a lesser standard of 500 feet, ultimately concluding no two electronic message display signs may be on a primary or interstate highway within 1000 feet of one another.
Lamar loses. Rosedale Highway wins.
Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.portersimon.com.