A sweep removing illegally placed signs in Caltrans rights-of-way has started a movement to amend state law and, hopefully, boost the struggling economy.
The Bishop Listing Service, a coalition of local Realtors, recently experienced a mass disappearance of “For Sale” and “Open House” signs from state highway rights-of-way.
After a little digging, members of the listing service learned that Caltrans employees had conducted a sweep, removing all illegally placed advertisements from the roadside. At a meeting earlier this week, several other members of the group said they understand where they are and are not allowed to place signs, and recognize the risk of losing their signs if they are placed in Caltrans rights-of-way.
Caltrans Deputy District 9 Director of Maintenance and Traffic Operations Craig Holste said the local Caltrans office is responsible for enforcement of state outdoor advertising laws, but it is the state office that writes the laws.
In accordance with the Outdoor Advertising Act and Caltrans regulations, no advertising signs are allowed within state-owned highway rights-of-way.
A waiver can be granted for political candidates, if they fill out an application and it is approved. But the law states that no advertising for items being sold will be permitted unless they are located on the property that is being sold.
Caltrans District 9 Traffic Engineer Terry Erlwein said Caltrans does not have crews out on a regular basis looking for illegally placed signs in the right-of-way, but there are times when complaints about signs increase, and teams are dispatched to collect the offending advertisements.
She said prior to the sweep in May, just before the June Primary Election, the local Caltrans office had seen an increase in complaints from residents and received a visit from a state inspector who tours all Caltrans districts looking for illegal advertising.
Caltrans defines the right-of-way as the space between the highway and the nearest fence, or the edge of a sidewalk. Where the issue gets confused is with the Outdoor Advertising Act, which claims that a right-of-way is 660 feet from the highway.
Erlwein said that as long as the local Caltrans Office isn’t receiving too many complaints, and the signs aren’t a hazard, sign removal isn’t a priority for District 9.
She also said that Realtors’ open house signs, which are generally up for a weekend, at most, are almost never removed, as Caltrans crews don’t work weekends.
Stan Smith, a member of the Listing Service, said that Caltrans removed dozens of signs the week before Mule Days, in May, including a number of advertisements for local homes for sale.
Also caught up in the sweep were a number of signs that were legally placed by Mono County Supervisor Hap Hazard, who had received a waiver from Caltrans to place his signs in the right-of-way.
Hazard, who lost his bid for re-election on June 5 (according to Smith, possibly because Caltrans removed his signs), said he is hoping to change state laws and regulations concerning the placement of advertisements in state-owned rights-of-way.
Hazard said the real estate signs that were removed during the sweep last month aren’t much different than the political signs state legislators deemed appropriate for permitting.
“Your signs are temporary, of a particular size and can be accountable to people,” Hazard told the Listing Service at a meeting Wednesday. “I want to work on legislation that will get your signs up.
“The economy is upside down and people are trying to get out of their homes, I think we can find the political clout to get an exemption.”
Hazard said that, as a member of the California State Association of Counties and the Regional Council for Rural Counties, he could work towards reforming the state’s outdoor advertising laws to allow temporary real estate signs to be posted in rights-of-way.
Hazard also encouraged Inyo residents to get in touch with the Inyo County Board of Supervisors in an effort to generate support here as well.