Vista Abandons Controversial Billboards Project

The proposal included digital billboards placed along State Route 78

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    City of Vista
    A rendering of one of the billboards from the City of Vista's website. The placement of this one was proposed for University Drive going east on SR-78.

    The City of Vista will not be moving forward with a controversial project to add digital billboards along State Route 78, the city’s website confirmed Wednesday.

    According to the City of Vista, the project would require an environmental study examining how the project might affect the surrounding area. That environmental study would cost a minimum of $150,000, and the city says there are simply no funds in their budget to pay for that.

    Therefore, the City Manager has recommended the City Council drop the proposal altogether.

    According to proponents of the project, the “Digital Message Board” program would have generated substantial revenue for Vista – between $300,000 and $400,000 annually for the city’s general fund. After six years, that revenue had potential to grow even greater.

    The proposal said the two, double-sided billboards would be placed west of the Sycamore Avenue exit off SR-78 and west of the Emerald Drive exit, near Santa Clara way. Both would be placed on the north side of the highway, on city-owned land, and would measure 14 feet high by 48 feet wide.

    However, the proposal came with some controversy. Not everyone was on board with the types of advertising the digital billboards might host, including advertisements for alcohol, medical marijuana and adult businesses.

    The North Coastal Prevention Coalition (NCPC) -- a group that aims to reduce the harm of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs in the cities of Vista, Carlsbad and Oceanside through community action, education and support – was among the opponents.

     

    The NCPC opposed alcohol advertising on public lands via the digital billboards as a matter of poor public policy.

    The NCPC argued that alcohol-related incidents cost the City of San Diego a lot of money, and advertising alcohol along a popular roadway would not help the situation, especially when it comes to underage drinking.

    According to the NCPC’s website, underage drinkers are responsible for 20 percent of all alcohol consumed and $22.5 billion of annual alcohol industry revenues. For every dollar spent on alcohol advertising, the NCPC says underage drinking jumps by 3 percent.

    The group also argued that other governmental agencies, including the North County Transit District and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, have already banned alcohol advertising on public property.

    The NCPC planned to discuss the proposal and present their concerns during a meeting Wednesday evening with Vista residents and leaders.

    According to the proposal as shown on the City of Vista’s website, 15 percent of the content on the digital message boards would be civic and community messaging. Up to 10 percent would be available at discounted rates for local business advertising. The proposal promised “effective advertising that complies with all government regulations and projects a high-quality image for the City.”

    Despite news of the City of Vista dropping the project, the NCPC still planned to hold their meeting Wednesday.

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