UPDATE #2: Orinda City Clerk Michele Olsen said she called Caltrans about signs along the freeway after receiving about 10 complaints from residents about the signs.
Candidates for public office sign a document when they file saying they will not place campaign signs on Caltrans land, Olsen said.
The city does not enforce freeway campaign sign regulations, she said, but will report violations to Caltrans when there are complaints. She said she has also given out Caltrans’ phone number to some residents, so its feasible the department received some direct calls from Orindans.
This all being said, who reports the violation is in some ways a moot point. State law prohibits campaign signs alongside landscaped freeways. Thus, if a sign is on the freeway, it is in violation of the law and anyone — the city, a resident — has a right to complain about it.
The problem for candidates is it’s difficult to tell where the freeway ends and city roads begins. Caltrans Regional Director Robert Songey acknowledged it’s a complicated issue. So the question then becomes, who is responsible for educating candidates about where signs are and are not allowed? The city? Caltrans? Or do candidates have the responsibility to educate themselves?
UPDATE: Tyson Krumholz said the Caltrans representative he spoke with told him the city called twice about signs near the freeway. Waiting to hear back from the city on this.
Orinda won’t enforce it’s sign regulations (or at least those pertaining to campaign signs) but that doesn’t mean Caltrans won’t.
That’s the lesson local candidates learned when they discovered signs they had placed at the corner of Camino Pablo and the Highway 24 west offramp had been removed.
But the city didn’t take the signs down; the state Department of Transportation did.
Here’s a picture provided by Orinda school board candidate Bekki Van Voorhis-Gilbert of the signs at the Caltrans facility in Walnut Creek.
The partially obscured green sign is for Orinda council candidate Scott Zeller. I’m not sure who belongs to the slogan, “Less Talk, More Action.”
According to California Business and Professions Code article 8 section 5440:
… no advertising display may be placed or maintained on property adjacent to a section of a freeway that has been landscaped if the advertising display is designed to be viewed primarily by persons traveling on the main-traveled way of the landscaped freeway.
State law defines “landscaped freeway” as one that has been improved on at least one side with trees, plants or other vegetation. There are exceptions to the no sign rule, but none of them apply to campaign signs.
How are candidates to tell what falls under Caltrans jurisdiction? The freeway right-of-way will be delineated by a fence, said Regional Manager Robert Songey. Signs cannot be inside of that fence or attached to the fence, he said.
In the Orinda case, Songey said, Caltrans responded to a complaint from an Orinda resident. But he said Caltrans workers will also take down signs if they’re working in an area and notice them, and are especially vigilant during campaign seasons.
Orinda school board candidate Tyson Krumholz said the city should provide more information about where city land ends and state land begins.
“Where that starts and stops, the city should truly define that so CalTrans doesn’t have to waste its time,” he said.