EDITOR’S NOTE: The City Council on Tuesday, after a lengthy debate that limited the public to one-minute comments, delayed a decision until Friday on a new bus bench contract. This is just the latest fiasco of City Hall’s gross mismanagement, incompetence and corruption. The contract expired 20 months ago and the local firm that had the contract was left hanging while the Public Works Department played games and finally gave the contract to an out-of-state firm that had taken over the actual bidder. Meanwhile, hundreds of benches have been removed, leaving bus passengers standing and waiting uncomfortably. Under the new contract, which the Council can only approve or veto but not change. Click here for the Council documents. Here’s an open letter on the controversy from the Brentwood Residents Coalition which also submitted a letter expressiing its concerns to the Council (Benches.pdf).
By Wendy Sue Rosen, Brentwood Residents Coalition
The City is on the verge
of approving a 10-year contract that will empower a private company, Martin
Outdoor Media, to install bus benches with commercial advertising throughout
the City, without regard for zoning requirements. We have read the entire
contract and it allows Martin to install these bus benches with advertisements
along otherwise protected Scenic Highways and Corridors, Specific Plan Areas,
and Coastal Zones, like Sunset Blvd., Mulholland Drive, San Vicente Blvd.,
etc. (See attached letter)
At today’s (Tuesday) hearing, the
City’s Public Works representatives clearly stated that neither community
members nor the Council Offices will have “veto” power to prevent
installations, not even in protected areas. They said that Martin would “work
with” the Council Districts and community, but there is nothing in the contract
requiring that they “work with” anyone and no definition of what that would
The bottom line is that
zoning restrictions are not specified in the contract as a permissible
basis for rejecting an installation. If the contract is approved without an express exemption
precluding the installation of these bench/ads in areas where prohibited by
zoning laws, then the City will not have the contractual authority to deny
Martin the contractual right to install them in code-protected areas.
The City Council must
either approve or reject the contract by Friday, or the contract is
automatically deemed approved. On Friday at 10:00 AM, the City Council will be
asked to approve the contract without environmental review – based on a
“categorical exemption” from CEQA.
We will be testifying at
City Council on Friday that an exemption would be improper unless the contract
is modified to require compliance with zoning laws. Otherwise the contract will
have a significant environmental impact due to the placement of benches/ads in
areas now prohibited.
The City can avoid this
problem by approving the contract on the condition that Public Works and Martin
amend the contract by adding the following language:
No Bus Benches or Trash
Receptacles with advertising may be installed in a manner that is inconsistent
with zoning laws, including restrictions on off-site advertising set forth in
Planning Documents such as the General Plan, Community and Specific Plans,
Pedestrian and Neighborhood Oriented Districts, and the California Coastal Act.
Please join us on Friday
to send a strong message to the City that our zoning codes must be
upheld. If this contract is approved without the language proposed or something
similar, this will open the door to the type of advertising in our scenic areas
that our codes were designed to prevent.