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.

On the last day of its monthly meetings Friday, the California Coastal Commission approved a bid by the city of Eureka to ban all new digital signs and billboards.

“I’m just delighted. We think they are really ugly,” said Michele McKeegan, the head of Keep Eureka Beautiful's tree project, a volunteer community advocacy group that supported the legislation. “They’re ugly. They flash and they’re often garish. People just don’t like them.”

The bill then went to the City Council, which passed a ban on digital signs and billboards from certain parts of the city and regulated the brightness of the signs. Because Eureka is on the Pacific coast and the ordinance would change zoning policy, the California Coastal Commission — the state agency assigned to protect and conserve the state’s coastline — had to sign off. 

Not only did the commission approve Eureka's ordinance, it asked the city to go farther and enact a complete ban on new digital billboards and signs across the city. The city agreed, passed the amended ordinance and sent it to the commission for approval.  

Along with banning new digital signs and billboards, the ordinance also forces the existing billboards to only contain static messages and only transition from one message to another instantly, without any transitional effects like fading out. The ads on the digital billboards can’t change more than once every 15 seconds, and they have to conform to both the city’s brightness standards, and the International Dark-Sky Association's brightness standards.   

“What we need are trees in our community, not digital billboards, street trees,” McKeegan said. 

Jennifer Kalt, the executive director of Humboldt Baykeeper, a coastal resources advocacy group, said the signs are also dangerous.
“The digital signs are more of an issue of light pollution and safety hazards, particularly on a quite dangerous stretch of US 101 that lacks pedestrian and cycling features,” Kalt wrote in an emailed statement. “We certainly applaud the city for being proactive about this, although it should have been done years ago.” 

Read More

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. 

Read More

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.


Read More

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.