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For sale: Dolphin Motel. Includes billboard.

Curiosity abounds as Point Loma Association strives to reduce sky-high signage

In fact, nearly everyone has lawyered up around this conflict
In fact, nearly everyone has lawyered up around this conflict

The billboard brouhaha continues in Point Loma.

It all started in February 2013, when the owner of the Dolphin Motel, H.D. Murdock, went seeking community support for his motel expansion sans the parking requirements.

The Point Loma Association had been asking Murdock to remove the billboard for years. So, when Murdock offered to take down one of the last two billboards left on this stretch of Rosecrans, it was music to the association’s ears.

Less than a week after a Reader article over the billboard squabble, the property was put up for sale.

It looked like finally the Dolphin Motel billboard was coming down until February 2015, when Clear Channel (the billboard's owners) demanded from the city compensation for the loss of their billboard, citing Section 5412.6 of the California Outdoor Advertising Act. The city then told Murdock he would be responsible for settling with Clear Channel if the billboard was removed. So, Murdock asked the community to let him out of his promise.

More recently, Robert Jackson of the association happened upon an online listing that has the motel on the market with a price tag of $6.3 million.

Jackson said, “It looks like Murdock just wants to take the money and run. They’re including the billboard in the sale....

“We got an attorney last week and he had a meeting with the Murdocks last week with their lawyer. I hope we can come to some resolution. But it looks like he got what he wanted and is leaving the community with nothing that he promised.”

In April, Jackson made a public records request with the city’s Development Services Department. He asked for all documents pertaining to the Dolphin Motel’s billboard. He finally got access to several documents on May 16.

One document that Jackson found curious was from August 2015 — it gave Murdock a new permit (1474224), amending the prior permit (1090713) by deleting the billboard-removal condition. Although the document is unsigned and unstamped by the city recorder, it is odd that it even exists. Lynda Pfeifer from the city said that the August 2015 hearing was canceled and that they had told Murdock they would not remove the billboard condition, though no time frame was mandated.

I contacted the city for comment earlier this week but never received a response.

While I waited for a call-back from Murdock’s son and co-owner Alan Murdock, I talked to Murdock’s broker Steve Avoyer on May 17. When asked if Murdock was selling the motel because of the situation with the billboard, Avoyer declined to comment. As far as any offers, he did say, “Yes, we have a variety of interested parties: some want to run the hotel and some are developers with lots of ideas.”

When I finally connected with Alan Murdock on May 19, I asked him if the resolution he alluded to (when we had last talked on March 25) was the selling of his motel. Murdock said, “I can’t get into that. We have some things going on with the property.” When I brought up the hotel being listed online on March 30, just days after we talked, he still declined to comment.

When asked if he was selling the motel because of the billboard situation, he said, “It’s very sensitive and very involved and I can’t talk about it. My attorney doesn’t want me talking to the press.”

The only question Murdock would answer directly was about the remodel and the occupancy permit. He confirmed that the remodel was complete and the occupancy permit was in-hand.

I then asked him if he had received a new site-development permit in August 2015 that took away the condition to remove the billboard. Murdock paused before saying, “Wait, I’m not familiar with that. I haven’t seen that. Can you send it to me?”

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In fact, nearly everyone has lawyered up around this conflict
In fact, nearly everyone has lawyered up around this conflict

The billboard brouhaha continues in Point Loma.

It all started in February 2013, when the owner of the Dolphin Motel, H.D. Murdock, went seeking community support for his motel expansion sans the parking requirements.

The Point Loma Association had been asking Murdock to remove the billboard for years. So, when Murdock offered to take down one of the last two billboards left on this stretch of Rosecrans, it was music to the association’s ears.

Less than a week after a Reader article over the billboard squabble, the property was put up for sale.

It looked like finally the Dolphin Motel billboard was coming down until February 2015, when Clear Channel (the billboard's owners) demanded from the city compensation for the loss of their billboard, citing Section 5412.6 of the California Outdoor Advertising Act. The city then told Murdock he would be responsible for settling with Clear Channel if the billboard was removed. So, Murdock asked the community to let him out of his promise.

More recently, Robert Jackson of the association happened upon an online listing that has the motel on the market with a price tag of $6.3 million.

Jackson said, “It looks like Murdock just wants to take the money and run. They’re including the billboard in the sale....

“We got an attorney last week and he had a meeting with the Murdocks last week with their lawyer. I hope we can come to some resolution. But it looks like he got what he wanted and is leaving the community with nothing that he promised.”

In April, Jackson made a public records request with the city’s Development Services Department. He asked for all documents pertaining to the Dolphin Motel’s billboard. He finally got access to several documents on May 16.

One document that Jackson found curious was from August 2015 — it gave Murdock a new permit (1474224), amending the prior permit (1090713) by deleting the billboard-removal condition. Although the document is unsigned and unstamped by the city recorder, it is odd that it even exists. Lynda Pfeifer from the city said that the August 2015 hearing was canceled and that they had told Murdock they would not remove the billboard condition, though no time frame was mandated.

I contacted the city for comment earlier this week but never received a response.

While I waited for a call-back from Murdock’s son and co-owner Alan Murdock, I talked to Murdock’s broker Steve Avoyer on May 17. When asked if Murdock was selling the motel because of the situation with the billboard, Avoyer declined to comment. As far as any offers, he did say, “Yes, we have a variety of interested parties: some want to run the hotel and some are developers with lots of ideas.”

When I finally connected with Alan Murdock on May 19, I asked him if the resolution he alluded to (when we had last talked on March 25) was the selling of his motel. Murdock said, “I can’t get into that. We have some things going on with the property.” When I brought up the hotel being listed online on March 30, just days after we talked, he still declined to comment.

When asked if he was selling the motel because of the billboard situation, he said, “It’s very sensitive and very involved and I can’t talk about it. My attorney doesn’t want me talking to the press.”

The only question Murdock would answer directly was about the remodel and the occupancy permit. He confirmed that the remodel was complete and the occupancy permit was in-hand.

I then asked him if he had received a new site-development permit in August 2015 that took away the condition to remove the billboard. Murdock paused before saying, “Wait, I’m not familiar with that. I haven’t seen that. Can you send it to me?”

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Comments
2

Great update.

May 22, 2016

The billboard has left the Dolphin Motel. Community celebrating.

Aug. 16, 2018

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