Billboard ordinance changed to allow digital display

February 2019

The Orange City Council amended an ordinance governing billboards at its Jan. 8 meeting, to enable a static sign overlooking the 55 Freeway to be converted to a digital display.

The proposed digital sign, that will change every eight seconds, was approved a year ago, but could not be put into play until the city ordinance was modified to allow it.

Orange agreed to the electronic display on that one billboard because, in exchange, Outfront Media, the owner of street side signs throughout the city, will permanently remove five sign faces within city limits or its viewshed.  

The revised ordinance continues to prohibit the construction of new billboards, but allows the conversion of five billboards along the 55 and 57 Freeway corridors.  It is unlikely, city staff reported, that all five would be converted because of the exchange agreement. With only 11 billboards (some with two faces) in the city, and with every conversion contingent on the removal of five faces, there aren’t enough to trade out.  Right now, the only pending agreement is for the one on East Katella Avenue. 


Eye of the beholder
The electronic version will be six feet shorter in height and 12 feet less in width than the existing sign.  Outfront Media notes that the LED displays will not be significantly brighter than the billboard’s present reflective light.  Brightness levels are self-adjustable, based on time of day or night, and are within lumination standards.

Still, residents who live in the neighborhood below the towering sign are unhappy with the specter of brightly colored messaging changing every eight seconds.  

“Right now, the billboard is not invasive,” Shelley Archer advised, “but converting to digital will change the dynamic of how my street looks and feels. The lighting analysis did not take residential streets into account. There was no discussion about the decrease in property value, as a result.”

Susan Tuttle said that she was shocked that digital advertising would be allowed.  “Why is that sign in our community?” she asked.  “You’re here to protect us, the homeowners.  Would you want that sign glaring into your bedroom?”

There is little the city can do to abate residents’ concerns.  Orange was on the losing end of a 1995 lawsuit, wherein it wanted to remove billboards entirely.  The court ruled that the city had to accept the signage that existed, although it could prohibit some content relating to tobacco products, alcoholic beverages or adult businesses.  “The sign will be there as long as the owner wants it to be,” Mayor Mark Murphy explained.  “Digital or not.  If we don’t pass this ordinance, nothing will change.  If we do pass it, the sign will get smaller.”

The new ordinance language passed by a unanimous vote.