The suggestion of a city electronic messaging sign was met with opposition from a vocal group of residents April 11.
Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery and Councilman Jerry Kern put discussion of placing an electronic messaging sign in Civic Center Plaza on the council agenda. The sign proposed would display community events, meeting schedules and public safety messages.
Prior to the council meeting a sufficient number of opposition emails were received for Lowery to introduce the idea and in the same breath say he no longer supported it.
A half dozen residents shared their concerns at the meeting, which included sign brightness, distraction to drivers and taking away from the beauty of Civic Center Plaza architecture and fountain.
“It’s out of character with the plaza, it does not fit in,” Kevin Brown, an Oceanside resident and founder of Scenic Oceanside, said.
Fellow Oceanside resident Victor Roy echoed Brown’s concern.
“Why do we need a TV on a pole to spoil it all? Let’s keep it beautiful,” Roy said.
The proposed electronic messaging sign was suggested to take the place of banners that announce city events. Kern said banners are sometimes frayed and numerous banners hung at the same time are unattractive.
Kern added the advantage of an electronic messaging sign is that information could be easily changed and updated.
“We’re trying to communicate,” Kern said.
Residents who opposed the electronic messaging sign had no objection to banners, and said city and emergency information is already sufficiently shared online and through phone apps.
Lowery also brought up the challenge of banner installation. He described seeing a city worker use a ladder, and then climb up a palm tree to secure a banner between two trees. Lowrey said the practice is unsafe, and an electronic messaging sign would eliminate the worker safety hazard.
Speakers at the meeting suggested a cherry picker or electric lift could be used to install banners.
Following the meeting City Manager Michelle Skaggs Lawrence said banners “are already handled in a safe manner.”
Comments against an electronic messaging sign hearkens back to strong community opposition to electronic billboards in 2015, and came from some of the same speakers.
The council approved allowance of four digital billboards on city property in 2012, in order to generate funds for the cash-strapped city during the recession.
In 2015 BGT Media proposed an electronic billboard on Rancho del Oro Drive and state Route 78, which would pay the city a $180,000 annual lease fee for 25 years and 25 percent of its profits. The billboard was estimated to generate $500,000 annually for Oceanside, but was voted down by council.
At the April 11 meeting Kern said the electronic messaging sign is not a billboard, and a design is not available this early in the process. His comments did not change the direction of the discussion. The motion did not receive a second and died.
Following the meeting, Lowery said people are just not ready to talk about it.
“It’s not going to look like a Las Vegas billboard,” Lowery said.
The cost of an electronic messaging sign, installation and needed coastal permit is estimated to be $85,000.