We live in a beautiful place and we are reminded of this every time we bike, walk, or drive around Humboldt Bay. Unfortunately, for many years these scenic coastal views have been marred by the presence of unsightly billboards jutting up along the Highway 101 Safety Corridor between Arcata and Eureka. 

Humboldt Baykeeper has been working for years to have these billboards removed - legally and permanently. There have been many unsuccessful attempts in the past to remove these billboards, but in Sept. 2013, the California Coastal Commission responded to our calls to address this blight. Since then, Caltrans has finally revoked permits for most of the billboards along the bay. Since 2012, 16 fewer billboards obstruct our beautiful bay views between Arcata and Eureka, and today only 3 remain. We will continue our efforts until they are all gone for good.

A pair of rulings from last week’s meeting of the California Coastal Commission will reduce the number of illuminated digital signs allowed in Eureka’s coastal zone while also limiting how bright they can be.

Once the new rules are adopted by the city, which is scheduled to happen this fall, Eureka businesses that still want to erect digital billboards in the coastal zone will have to submit their plans to the city’s design review committee for approval at a public hearing.

Coastal commissioners, including Humboldt County Supervisor Mike Wilson, said these new restrictions will help to limit encroaching light pollution, and they urged city officials to go even farther to slow the spread of these bright, frequently animated digital advertisements.

During the public comment period, Humboldt Baykeeper Executive Director Jennifer Kalt urged the commission to prohibit these signs throughout Eureka’s coastal zone “to protect wildlife from night glare and protect public safety from distracted drivers on a very dangerous stretch of highway.”
She noted that digital signs, which contain thousands of LED lights, can be up to 10 times brighter than standard illuminated signs, contributing to light pollution and potentially affecting nocturnal wildlife’s eating, foraging and orientation behaviors.

Kalt urged the commission to follow the guidelines of the International Dark-Sky Association, which works to reduce light pollution and offers program guidelines for local governments. 

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Since 2012, 18 billboards along Humboldt Bay have been removed through hard work and advocacy by Keep Eureka Beautiful, Sierra Club, Humboldt Bay Billboard Bye Bye, Humboldt Baykeeper, the City of Arcata, and many others. And on September 15, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to approve a limited 5-year permit to rebuild a billboard that fell into the Elk River wetlands along Highway 101 last November – after which it must be removed.

The county is using state funds to buy property related to Humboldt Bay Trail development with a built-in source of revenue – three billboards.

 

But supervisors aren’t expecting them to last much longer, as a fourth billboard was blown over last year and removed earlier this year. 

 

The Board of Supervisors approved the $603,000 purchase of a shoreline property consisting of two parcels at its Oct. 6 meeting. The parcels are located between the Brainard mill site and the Bracut Industrial Park.

 

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The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday spent another two hours debating the fate of a billboard that was felled by wind last November, ultimately voting 3-2 to allow owner AllPoints Sign Company to rebuild the structure. However, in doing so, the three-member board majority added a provision that will require the sign, which sits in wetlands along the Elk River, to be permanently removed within five years.

That’s assuming it gets rebuilt. If AllPoints owner Geoff Wills accepts this five-year provision, he’ll still need to get approval from the California Coastal Commission before rebuilding the billboard.

Convinced by our legal analysis that a CEQA exemption would be a violation of state environmental protections, Humboldt County released a Mitigated Negative Declaration claiming that all wetland impacts related to re-building of this destroyed sign will be "less than significant."
Comments are due Sept. 7 for the Board of Supervisors' Sept. 15 hearing. 
We’re in the process of reviewing the document and we’ll keep you posted!