4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

They Laugh at a $1000 Fine

— Edmundo Batista Rivera and Conrado Gaxiola Val, though business competitors, greet each other as old friends. Batista rises from his table at Azulejos restaurant in the Hotel Camino Real in Tijuana's Zona Rio, and the two smile, shake hands, and share a laugh or two before sitting down. Batista and Gaxiola own Metromundo and Gaxiopsa Publicidad, respectively, Tijuana companies that build billboards -- carteleras in Spanish. Though new billboards are popping up daily in the border city of more than two million, the two are not happy with the state of their trade. Batista begins the tale of his discontent with a little history.

"Many years ago, in the Avenida Revolución, we had billboards. But about ten years ago, the municipal government wanted to renovate Revolution Avenue, and they had about 20 billboards taken down. Now there are only one or two billboards in that area. It's a tourist area with lots of business. Personally, I think we should have billboards over there. But the municipal government won't give permits. And in this area, Rio Tijuana, the federal government decided not to issue permits to put billboards. Now this area is municipal, but in those days it was federal, and they wanted to keep the area clean. So we have tried to respect that order in Avenida Revolución and in the Rio area. But recently, in Mexico City, the municipal government stopped allowing new billboards and started taking billboards down. So many billboard companies, about 100 of them, are coming to the north, especially to Tijuana and Monterrey. And they're not respecting those restrictions."

Batista pauses to take a bite of sweetbread -- "With your permission," he says to his guests -- then continues his story. "These companies are arriving. They've got power. They've got money. They go to your home, to your building, and they pay you a lot of money, and they put up a unipolar on your property. It doesn't matter if there's a billboard there already. The unipolares they can make very high so that it is above one that's already there. It's very dangerous. This is what happened during a big storm in Mexico City." He shows his guests a photo clipped from a newspaper of a couple of large billboards that fell during a windstorm, crushing a small two-story building.

A unipolar is a large billboard, as large as 12 by 4 meters, supported by one heavy steel pole bolted to a concrete footing. It's not the added competition from the south that has Batista and Gaxiola upset, it's the manner in which the out-of-town companies are doing business. "These guys come from Mexico City with their big unipolar billboards," Gaxiola explains. "They come in the night, they put up the billboard in the dark with a big crane, all without a permit from the city. Then, when the municipal government asks for a permit, they just pay the fine and the billboard stays there."

The concrete footing, Batista says, they pour and cure days before they erect the billboard. "They dig a big hole there, usually behind a screen so you can't see what's going on, and they pour a big base. While it dries, they build the billboard somewhere else. Then they bring it on trucks, they lift it up with a crane, and bolt it onto the base. It takes maybe three hours."

The fine levied by the city for such nonpermitted billboard construction is, in Batista's estimation, laughable. "About 9000 pesos, $1000," he explains. "The maximum I've heard of is $1800. Now, Conrado and myself, we're not very powerful. But these companies have a lot of money. They can pay that fine very easily. A unipolar with two faces costs about $30,000 in materials. So when they get a $1000 fine, they just laugh."

Advertising clients for the new billboards are pre-arranged. "If they build it," Batista explains, "it's because they already have the client, usually a large Mexican company -- Corona, other breweries, cigars, brandy, or wine. If they don't pay the fine, sometimes the municipal government puts a sign that says canceled over it, but they just pay the fine and the billboard stays there."

Luis Valdivia is a Tijuana resident who directs Médicis Communications, an advertising firm with offices in Tijuana and San Diego. "There's a very bulky new billboard at the border crossing that has a big pole in the middle," Valdivia says, "and one side extends to the left and the other side extends to the right. Right now, on the left side, they just put up a sign for Barona Casino. On the right side, they put up a sign, I think, for Pardee Homes. With that particular billboard, the problem was it was placed on federal land. But the people who put it up didn't realize that, in addition to getting a federal permit, they needed a city permit, because the city controls whether you can put up a sign. So when they had put up the structure and were getting ready to put the signs up, the city closed it down and covered it with a bunch of stickers showing the word clausurado, which means closed by the authorities. The stickers stayed up for a few months. But starting on January first, they were able to put up the signs, so I guess they worked it out with the city."

In addition to the fly-by-night style of the out-of-towners, Gaxiola and Batista complain that the Mexico City companies are building in areas that the city has designated off-limits, particularly Revolution Avenue and the Rio zone, and getting away with it. "And they're putting up too many. You walk out the front door of this hotel," Batista, growing animated, says, "and glance either right or left, and you'll see eight, nine, ten billboards in one glance. I counted eight billboards on a building near here."

"That area of the Rio zone," Valdivia says, "where Paseo de los Héroes ends, there's one block where you see about five to seven structures, and each structure has 2 billboards, one on top of the other. You're talking about 10 to 14 different billboards at a glance. You generally have about six seconds to read a billboard. Which one are you going to read? Especially in an area where you're merging into traffic and you're watching out so that you don't crash into somebody."

Gaxiola and Batista also complain that the new billboard makers in town are putting them in green zones, on historic buildings, and on bridges, all against city regulations. In the meantime, to build billboards legally, Batista and Gaxiola and a handful of other local companies go through an involved process. "First," Gaxiola explains, "you rent the area from the landowner. You have your own engineers see if the billboard you want to make can be done on that location and put together a plan for the billboard. With all that information, you go to the municipal government's planning department. You sign a request and you show them your plans. You have to make sure that the sign is completely over private property. It can't hang over the street. And it has to be able to withstand wind of 120 kilometers per hour. You leave the plans there, and you don't pay anything yet. They say to come back in ten days. In the meantime, they send their engineers out to check the site. If everything is all right, then they issue the permit, and you have to pay about 3000 pesos [about $330]."

Rent paid by the billboard company to the owner of the land upon which a billboard is erected usually equals about one month's rent charged to the advertiser. That figure depends on size and location of the sign. "It could be $10,000 per month for a big billboard near the border," Batista says, "and a small one here in Rio Tijuana would be $300 to $400. It depends on how much traffic, how many other billboards are around. If the area is crowded with carteleras, the price goes down."

Gaxiola and Batista are in the process of forming an outdoor-advertising association to try to help regulate, set standards, and "restore order" to the billboard business. Gaxiola has spoken to the mayor, Jesús González Reyes, on the subject. "I told him that a group of us would like to speak about the problem with him. What we want is order, and he says he wants to bring order to Tijuana."

"But right now," Batista adds, "these companies are coming in the night and putting up very expensive billboards and making our city look ugly. And the city doesn't do anything about it."

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

Maya Moon gives Normal Heights a chocolate bar

Minimally processed and naturally sweetened food and drinks shine at new coffee shop alternative

— Edmundo Batista Rivera and Conrado Gaxiola Val, though business competitors, greet each other as old friends. Batista rises from his table at Azulejos restaurant in the Hotel Camino Real in Tijuana's Zona Rio, and the two smile, shake hands, and share a laugh or two before sitting down. Batista and Gaxiola own Metromundo and Gaxiopsa Publicidad, respectively, Tijuana companies that build billboards -- carteleras in Spanish. Though new billboards are popping up daily in the border city of more than two million, the two are not happy with the state of their trade. Batista begins the tale of his discontent with a little history.

"Many years ago, in the Avenida Revolución, we had billboards. But about ten years ago, the municipal government wanted to renovate Revolution Avenue, and they had about 20 billboards taken down. Now there are only one or two billboards in that area. It's a tourist area with lots of business. Personally, I think we should have billboards over there. But the municipal government won't give permits. And in this area, Rio Tijuana, the federal government decided not to issue permits to put billboards. Now this area is municipal, but in those days it was federal, and they wanted to keep the area clean. So we have tried to respect that order in Avenida Revolución and in the Rio area. But recently, in Mexico City, the municipal government stopped allowing new billboards and started taking billboards down. So many billboard companies, about 100 of them, are coming to the north, especially to Tijuana and Monterrey. And they're not respecting those restrictions."

Batista pauses to take a bite of sweetbread -- "With your permission," he says to his guests -- then continues his story. "These companies are arriving. They've got power. They've got money. They go to your home, to your building, and they pay you a lot of money, and they put up a unipolar on your property. It doesn't matter if there's a billboard there already. The unipolares they can make very high so that it is above one that's already there. It's very dangerous. This is what happened during a big storm in Mexico City." He shows his guests a photo clipped from a newspaper of a couple of large billboards that fell during a windstorm, crushing a small two-story building.

A unipolar is a large billboard, as large as 12 by 4 meters, supported by one heavy steel pole bolted to a concrete footing. It's not the added competition from the south that has Batista and Gaxiola upset, it's the manner in which the out-of-town companies are doing business. "These guys come from Mexico City with their big unipolar billboards," Gaxiola explains. "They come in the night, they put up the billboard in the dark with a big crane, all without a permit from the city. Then, when the municipal government asks for a permit, they just pay the fine and the billboard stays there."

The concrete footing, Batista says, they pour and cure days before they erect the billboard. "They dig a big hole there, usually behind a screen so you can't see what's going on, and they pour a big base. While it dries, they build the billboard somewhere else. Then they bring it on trucks, they lift it up with a crane, and bolt it onto the base. It takes maybe three hours."

The fine levied by the city for such nonpermitted billboard construction is, in Batista's estimation, laughable. "About 9000 pesos, $1000," he explains. "The maximum I've heard of is $1800. Now, Conrado and myself, we're not very powerful. But these companies have a lot of money. They can pay that fine very easily. A unipolar with two faces costs about $30,000 in materials. So when they get a $1000 fine, they just laugh."

Advertising clients for the new billboards are pre-arranged. "If they build it," Batista explains, "it's because they already have the client, usually a large Mexican company -- Corona, other breweries, cigars, brandy, or wine. If they don't pay the fine, sometimes the municipal government puts a sign that says canceled over it, but they just pay the fine and the billboard stays there."

Luis Valdivia is a Tijuana resident who directs Médicis Communications, an advertising firm with offices in Tijuana and San Diego. "There's a very bulky new billboard at the border crossing that has a big pole in the middle," Valdivia says, "and one side extends to the left and the other side extends to the right. Right now, on the left side, they just put up a sign for Barona Casino. On the right side, they put up a sign, I think, for Pardee Homes. With that particular billboard, the problem was it was placed on federal land. But the people who put it up didn't realize that, in addition to getting a federal permit, they needed a city permit, because the city controls whether you can put up a sign. So when they had put up the structure and were getting ready to put the signs up, the city closed it down and covered it with a bunch of stickers showing the word clausurado, which means closed by the authorities. The stickers stayed up for a few months. But starting on January first, they were able to put up the signs, so I guess they worked it out with the city."

In addition to the fly-by-night style of the out-of-towners, Gaxiola and Batista complain that the Mexico City companies are building in areas that the city has designated off-limits, particularly Revolution Avenue and the Rio zone, and getting away with it. "And they're putting up too many. You walk out the front door of this hotel," Batista, growing animated, says, "and glance either right or left, and you'll see eight, nine, ten billboards in one glance. I counted eight billboards on a building near here."

"That area of the Rio zone," Valdivia says, "where Paseo de los Héroes ends, there's one block where you see about five to seven structures, and each structure has 2 billboards, one on top of the other. You're talking about 10 to 14 different billboards at a glance. You generally have about six seconds to read a billboard. Which one are you going to read? Especially in an area where you're merging into traffic and you're watching out so that you don't crash into somebody."

Gaxiola and Batista also complain that the new billboard makers in town are putting them in green zones, on historic buildings, and on bridges, all against city regulations. In the meantime, to build billboards legally, Batista and Gaxiola and a handful of other local companies go through an involved process. "First," Gaxiola explains, "you rent the area from the landowner. You have your own engineers see if the billboard you want to make can be done on that location and put together a plan for the billboard. With all that information, you go to the municipal government's planning department. You sign a request and you show them your plans. You have to make sure that the sign is completely over private property. It can't hang over the street. And it has to be able to withstand wind of 120 kilometers per hour. You leave the plans there, and you don't pay anything yet. They say to come back in ten days. In the meantime, they send their engineers out to check the site. If everything is all right, then they issue the permit, and you have to pay about 3000 pesos [about $330]."

Rent paid by the billboard company to the owner of the land upon which a billboard is erected usually equals about one month's rent charged to the advertiser. That figure depends on size and location of the sign. "It could be $10,000 per month for a big billboard near the border," Batista says, "and a small one here in Rio Tijuana would be $300 to $400. It depends on how much traffic, how many other billboards are around. If the area is crowded with carteleras, the price goes down."

Gaxiola and Batista are in the process of forming an outdoor-advertising association to try to help regulate, set standards, and "restore order" to the billboard business. Gaxiola has spoken to the mayor, Jesús González Reyes, on the subject. "I told him that a group of us would like to speak about the problem with him. What we want is order, and he says he wants to bring order to Tijuana."

"But right now," Batista adds, "these companies are coming in the night and putting up very expensive billboards and making our city look ugly. And the city doesn't do anything about it."

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Macbeth At Saville Theatre, Taking Back Sunday and Jimmy Eat World, Leftover Salmon

Events October 21-October 22, 2021
Next Article

Property astir on El Cajon Blvd.

Lafayette Hotel, Red Fox Room, Mississippi Apartments
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close