Controversial Billboard on Anaheim Council Agenda

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The Anaheim City Council Tuesday night will consider approving the erection of a controversial 84-foot-tall electronic billboard adjacent to the city’s new transit hub, part of a plan to raise revenue for the center’s operations and maintenance.

The city’s planning commission last month unanimously rejected the structure along with two other smaller signs; and City Hall has reportedly been inundated with phone calls and emails from residents expressing opposition to the plan.

Also, Orange Assistant City Manager Rick Otto penned a letter to Anaheim officials opposing the billboard, saying that the structure would be too visible from his city, which borders Anaheim and is within blocks from the proposed site just off the 57 freeway near Katella Ave.

City leaders view the billboard, which would be put up by Clear Channel Outdoor, as an important piece of the financing plan for transit hub, which is officially known as the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC).

Specifically under consideration is a licensing agreement whereby Clear Channel Outdoor would pay 55 percent of the billboard’s advertising revenue back to the city. At minimum, the agreement calls for the city to receive $325,000 from Clear Channel Outdoor, with that amount increasing during each year of the 20-year contract.

Anaheim has a citywide ban on such billboards, but Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill backed by state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) that exempts ARTIC and other public transportation centers in the state.

Known for its massive shell, the 120 ft. ARTIC is expected to cost over $5 million annually to operate and maintain. The structure itself was also controversial because its construction was partly funded with revenue from the county’s half-cent sales tax, which some critics say was not supposed to be spent on a new $180 million train and bus station.

ARTIC ran into financing challenges almost from the outset. A corporate naming rights deal was planned to pay for a considerable portion, but so far hasn’t materialized, according to a recent article in the Orange County Register.

Public Works Director Natalie Meeks told the Register that the shortfall could be made up through development of adjacent land.

“We will operate in the red for a while, but then that can then be repaid with potential development on the site in the future,” Meeks told the newspaper.

The council meeting starts at 5 p.m. at City Hall, which is located at 200 S. Anaheim Blvd. (map).

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at aelmahrek@voiceofoc.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/adamelmahrek

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