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Move afoot to remove billboards?
Leaders also want weathered chamber sign off city property
Part of whats left of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce welcome sign on Moffat Boulevard. - photo by HIME ROMERO

There are some not-so -pretty signs along Moffat Boulevard.

And Mayor Willie Weatherford and several of his colleagues believe the time has come to do something about them.

The easiest may be removing the 1970s-era “Welcome to Manteca” sign that is weathered and sports just one service club logo - that of the Rotary. It is even missing part of the words “Welcomes You” as the result of a missing board that’s been long gone.

The Moffat sign is now actually on city property as it is part of the Spreckels BMX Park site. It had been on private property until the city inked a deal four years ago to create the BMX park.

Then there are the CBS billboards on city owned park land that Manteca leaders back in 2007 exercised their legal option to terminate the contract but did not follow through became the media conglomerate threatened to sue the city halfway to the moon.

The welcome sign put in place by the Manteca Chamber of Commerce hopefully can come down soon providing someone steps forward and offers their services for free.

Councilwoman Debby Moorhead - who works as the chief executive officer for the chamber - noted the Moffat welcome sign was discussed by the chamber board at their last meeting.

“We don’t have the money to remove it right now,” Moorhead said.

She added if someone offered their services they’d be more than happy to see the sign taken down.

Moorhead added the sign isn’t exactly historical but it has been on Moffat for decades.

Mayor Manteca Willie Weatherford as well as Councilman John Harris agreed that the sign is “ugly.”

Weatherford went as far as saying the city might consider stepping up and “abating” the eyesore as they do with other similar cases.

Moorhead indicated the chamber is still working on long-range plans to install new welcome signs including a digital display sign in front of the South San Joaquin Irrigation District office on East Highway 120. She added that a new welcome sign is not likely to go on Moffat since it is no longer an entrance to Manteca.

Two signs similar to the Moffat welcome sign - on East Highway 120 and the other on West Yosemite Avenue - were torn down a number of years ago.

The three council members also think it is time for the city to finally do something about three CBS billboards on city-owned property along Moffat Boulevard especially after the city has invested upwards of $9 million along the Moffat corridor to put in the Tidewater Bikeway, sidewalks, stern drains, a combo retention basin/park, new water treatment facility, trees and now the transit station. The city also cracked down on property owners that were creating trash issues as well as overnight truckers.

The City Council served notice on May 1, 2007 to CBS Outdoor - a wholly-owned subsidiary of CBS - that it wanted three two-sided billboards on city property removed.

The legal agreement between the city and the media company required the billboards to either be removed within 30 days of receiving notice from the city or - if not removed by them - the city could do so and the sign company would have to reimburse the city for the costs of removal as long as it occurred within one year after the 30-day period expired.

That meant the city had until June 1, 2008 to remove the billboards that are in the Tidewater Bikeway municipal park and still get CBS to reimburse the costs. However, city staff at the time said CBS said they’d play legal hardball and fight the city using a federal law that was intended to prevent local governments from forcing the removal of billboards on private property. In this case, the billboards are on public property.

The council legally canceled the contract and then did nothing.

In 1997, the city acquired the land from the railroad to create the Tidewater Bike path.

City first ordered billboards removed almost 12 years ago

The first time the city gave notice it wanted the billboards out was on March 19, 2001 when the City Council gave approval to provide notification of termination of the lease agreement when it was originally thought the secondary wastewater line serving Eckert’s Cold Storage would go under the billboards. Another option for the line was discovered and the council’s directive was not implemented.

On April 16, 2007, the City Council reaffirmed its earlier decision to terminate the lease. That notice went to CBS Outdoor on May 1, 2007. CBS Outdoor - the nation’s largest owner of billboards - had since acquired the signs.

The city receives $2,070 a year in lease payments for the land where the billboards sit. That is a significant bargain since many home builders will pay Manteca property owners for temporary permanent signs one-sixth the size of the billboards $100 a month to place them on their property.

CBS is now taking steps to divest its outdoor advertising business.