Fountain Valley City Council OKs electronic message board that promises revenue stream
Fountain Valley could soon see a significant bump in revenue, as an electronic billboard project got the green light from the City Council on Tuesday night.
The city plans to enter into a 15-year lease agreement with Outfront Media to build an electronic message board on a parcel of city-owned land at 10955 Ellis Ave. Three five-year options could draw out the life of the lease to a total of 30 years.
If the project gains approval from the California Department of Housing and Community Development, as well as from Caltrans, the city stands to earn more than $30 million over 30 years in guaranteed revenue, including a one-time payment of $750,000.
The plans call for a 65-foot-tall structure supporting a 14-foot-by-48-foot “V” shaped LED billboard that would be built adjacent to the water tower and overlook the 405 Freeway, the highway traffic serving as its target audience.
Outfront Media promised to make additional payments to the city from advertising sales. Fountain Valley’s revenue share would not exceed 65%, but the city could see up to $76.9 million in total revenue, according to the projected revenue shown in a presentation.
A split vote of 3-1-1, with Mayor Pro Tem Kim Constantine dissenting and Councilman Ted Bui abstaining, saw the project move forward. The panel’s decision came after a motion to have the item continued for 30 days was rejected by a 3-2 vote.
Four suspects were arrested on April 20. Three have been released as of Thursday, according to jail records.
Earlier in the evening, a 78-minute power outage in Council Chambers nearly resulted in a temporary continuance of the item. The lights came back on just two minutes before the 9:30 p.m. deadline the council had agreed to for waiting out the delay.
The city previously considered an electronic message board in 2015. Councilman Glenn Grandis noted the financial benefit greatly improved following the most recent request for proposals.
“We’re talking $1.5 million [annually] potentially now,” Grandis said. “We’re talking five times the number we were talking five years ago. This is really good news for the city.
“One thing that I’ve always fought for is revenue opportunities for the city that don’t cost our residents money — that it isn’t a fee, it isn’t a tax to our residents. This is something [where] we’re taking in a boatload of money, and it’s not costing our residents out of pocket. These are the types of opportunities we need to make sure that we go after.”
Tim Fox, vice president of government affairs for Outfront Media, said messages shown on the billboard will be displayed for eight seconds. He added the city would receive a spot to promote its own events every minute, and he said a 10% discount would be offered to local businesses looking to advertise.
Once fully approved, Fox said it would take about six months to complete the project.
Residents’ concerns included the possibility of creating an additional distraction for drivers with the sign to be built near a freeway entrance and exit, and another issue raised was the ability to control the content.
With the billboard set to be built on city-owned property, City Atty. Colin Burns said the city could act as a landlord and set conditions for the use of the land. Department City Manager Maggie Le stated the city had come up with an extensive list of advertising restrictions, including a ban on ads related to politics, smoking (vaping, marijuana, etc.) and sexually-oriented businesses.
“The City Council is acting in a proprietary capacity, it’s acting as a landlord,” Burns said. “You can do things as a landlord that you couldn’t do as a regulator. One of the things you can do as a landlord is tell a private party, or anybody else, what they can say on your property.
“We can’t tell people what they can say on their property, limited exceptions, but on our own property, we do have control of what people say. It’s essentially a landlord ability.”
Mayor Patrick Harper said he was on the Planning Commission and voted against the initial electronic billboard project submitted to the city by Clear Channel Outdoor in 2015, in part, because the height of the proposed sign was 79 feet.
His vote Tuesday went with the project.
“I think adding a message sign like this is not going to turn our city into Las Vegas,” Harper said. “I think with the new technology, it’s really lessened the impact on the surrounding areas. I was impressed that the lights are actually facing down. Some of the existing billboards are just like an LCD screen, it’s just facing out, so they were able to angle the lights downward to minimize the light impact on the surrounding areas.”
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