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A local environmental group has lodged a formal objection to the “Negative Declaration” issued last month ruling that a proposed electronic billboard advertising a Santee used car dealership “.could not have a significant impact upon the environment.”

Scenic San Diego, which bills itself as “a nonprofit association dedicated to preservation of scenic vistas within San Diego County, enforcement of existing sign laws and prevention of sign blight and proliferation,” submitted public commentary regarding the Declaration arguing its validity. Pamela Wilson, the group’s director writing on behalf of Scenic, says that the “digital billboard” project is not eligible for a Negative Declaration without an Environmental Impact Report if there is a “fair argument” that there may be a significant impact of the project.

“The ‘fair argument’ standard creates a low threshold for requiring preparation of an [Environmental Impact Report],” Wilson writes.

Further, even if such a report were prepared and found no significant harm, “the project is directly in violation of multiple provisions of the Santee Municipal Code’s sign regulation and as such is completely illegal.”

Per the City, freestanding signs:

Shall be nonmoving stationary structures (in all components) and illumination, if any, shall be stationary and constant in intensity and color at all times (nonflashing). . . . The following signs are expressly prohibited: Flashing signs, except in time and temperature signs Animated signs

An LED-powered video board, designed to adjust the intensity of its light output based on the weather and time of day and to cycle through various images of cars for sale appears to directly violate this provision.

Further establishing the sign as “flashing” or “animated,” Wilson points to a previous court decision:

In 2011, a unanimous Arizona appellate court held that a [digital billboard] image “dwell” time of eight seconds, which is two seconds longer than the time interval proposed herein, constitutes intermittent light, something expressly prohibited by the Highway Beautification Act. Such intermittent light is also expressly forbidden by Santee law.

Another issue is that the proposed sign would stand 24 feet taller than the maximum legal height within city limits. Santee code allows a sign to be a maximum of either 15 feet above freeway grade or 50 feet high in total, whichever is less. Since the freeway sits 29 feet above the property where the base of the sign would be installed, the maximum legal height would be 44 feet, though the dealer proposes a sign 70 feet tall.

The proposed sign would also have a surface area of about 321 square feet on each side, which Wilson notes is nearly four times the City code limit of 84 square feet per side.

Wilson closes her argument by citing a CalTrans study on digital billboards:

Studies regularly demonstrate that the presence of roadside advertising signs such as digital billboards contributes to driver distraction tat levels that adversely affect safe driving performance.

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