Plans for big, lighted sign at Fountain Valley-Costa Mesa border are back and neighbors aren’t happy

Costa Mesa residents are protesting a proposed advertising sign in Fountain Valley, near the 405 Freeway and Santa Ana River. They contend that the LED sign will be a visual blight to their neighborhood across the river.

Costa Mesa residents are protesting a proposed advertising sign in Fountain Valley, near the 405 Freeway and Santa Ana River. They contend that the LED sign will be a visual blight to their neighborhood across the river.

(Bradley Zint / Daily Pilot)

A proposed electronic billboard in Fountain Valley near the 405 Freeway is raising concerns in Costa Mesa for a second time this year, with many households contending that the nearly 80-foot-tall sign would be a visual blight that lights up the night.

After getting postponed in January, the proposed light-emitting diode (LED) sign in a city-owned parcel at 10955 Ellis Ave. returns to the city’s Planning Commission for consideration Wednesday.

Clear Channel Outdoor’s 79-foot-tall sign — dubbed an “electronic message center” by city officials — would contain two 672-square-foot LED displays forming a “V” shape.

The advertising company is seeking a 30-year lease, paying Fountain Valley $150,000 the first year. Rent would go up by about 2% each year thereafter.

Clear Channel also agreed to a one-time payment of $60,000, used toward buying signs near the city’s Recreation Center, said Matt Mogensen, interim planning and building director. Those signs would not contain commercial advertising, only city recreational offerings, he added.

Fountain Valley officials say the project is beneficial to their city because Clear Channel has agreed to take down another sign at 12191 W. Edinger Ave., a residential property. Clear Channel also agreed to take down two other billboards, within two years, at 16252 Harbor Blvd.

None of those billboards contain LED signs.

City officials say the freeway sign will “promote the public convenience, health, interest, safety and welfare of the city” when used to also promote community events, public service announcements and emergency notifications.

The displays cannot contain tobacco or e-cigarette ads, publicize political candidates, measures or sexually oriented material, according to the lease agreement.

Though the sign is not expected to affect any Fountain Valley households, it is expected to impact State Streets homes across the Santa Ana River in Costa Mesa, particularly those on Alabama Circle, California Street and Nevada Avenue.

Residents in both cities, as well as Costa Mesa city officials, have expressed concern about the plan. Costa Mesa sent a letter last year about the project and plans to send a second before Wednesday’s meeting.

In Fountain Valley’s response to various concerns, including a suggestion to relocate the sign elsewhere, city documents state there are “few opportunities” to put the sign elsewhere because the city owns limited amounts of land near the 405 Freeway.

The project’s final environmental impact report also argues that the sign will not impose significant light and glare on Costa Mesa homes.

“The closest residences to the proposed sign (approximately 700 feet away) are shown to have 0.02 footcandle additional light from the proposed sign,” the report states. “This additional amount of light is equivalent to 2% of the light from a single wax candle.”

Fountain Valley resident Leston Trueblood was more skeptical, saying in an interview that he “felt sorry” for the Costa Mesa households affected by the “behemoth” sign.

“They are gonna get blasted by this light … their quality of life is going to tank and certainly their property values,” he said.

State Streets residents have alerted their neighbors about Wednesday’s hearing. A banner placed over the “Mesa Verde North” sign, in a median near California and Iowa streets, reads: “No LED billboard & Moon Park/405. STOP Fountain Valley.”

In a letter to the Fountain Valley Planning Commission, Karen Stallings — who said if the sign goes in, she will shop at the Irvine Costco instead of the Fountain Valley one — wrote: “If you want to make Fountain Valley appear tacky as hell, by all means, put [in] a 79-foot-tall electronic message board … I’m positive people traveling on the 405 will say, ‘By golly, Ma, look at the enormous sign. Let’s go to Fountain Valley!’ Not.”

Should the Planning Commission recommend the sign, Fountain Valley’s City Council will have the final word on the project.

Wednesday’s meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the council chambers, at 10200 Slater Ave.