Calling it a "monstrosity," Antioch Mayor Don Freitas is outraged at a billboard recently put up by Pittsburg officials next to Highway 4 that's larger than normal and right at the entrance to Antioch.
In February Antioch officials urged Pittsburg to not approve the double-sided billboard, which is 14-feet high and 48-feet wide and just behind a road sign announcing "Antioch NEXT 5 EXITS." The billboard currently displays an ad for 98.1 KISS-FM containing the slogan "Let's Groove."
But Antioch officials have been doing more steaming than grooving since the Pittsburg Planning Commission approved the sign on Feb. 13, and the Pittsburg City Council upheld that decision after Antioch appealed it. The billboard battle has strained relations between the cities, at least as far as Antioch officials are concerned.
"In a fit of anger when the City Council of Pittsburg approved (the billboard), I asked staff to write a letter" that was too strongly worded to send, said Freitas at the Aug. 14 council meeting. "Frankly, I would ask staff to make that letter available to the City Council now that we see the monstrosity that they have built.
"Frankly, it has soured a relationship with the city of Pittsburg. Because this was just a shot in the eye, and it was very unfortunate. Now that I see the monstrosity that it is, it's unbelievable."
In a Feb. 5 letter that Freitas did send to Pittsburg before the Planning Commission approved the billboard, he argued that the billboard "will convey a negative image for both communities." He argued that the proximity to the Antioch exit road sign will give the impression that the billboard is located in Antioch.
"The negative image conveyed by such billboard signs is not something that the city of Antioch desires," his letter states.
At the Aug. 14 council meeting, Councilman Arne Simonsen pointed out the proximity of the billboard to the highway, which is slated to be widened in the next few years to eight lanes with an eBART train in the highway median.
Simonsen blamed Pittsburg officials for delaying the highway widening through Railroad Avenue because of what he called their insistence on keeping the Railroad Avenue interchange open during the construction.
Now it appears that extra costs will be incurred in the widening project if the billboard has to be relocated to make room for the wider road, said Simonsen.
"This is wasting money," he said. "Frankly, both Senator (Tom) Torlakson and Assemblyman (Mark) DeSaulnier would like us to get that (cost) information to them. How in the world could Caltrans approve that thing there? We filed an appeal to their Planning Commission, it went to their City Council, and they told Antioch where to pack it. I'm not happy. How much is it going to cost us extra to buy up the parking lot land (on the north side of the highway)?"
Councilman Brian Kalinowski drew laughter with a suggestion that was only half in jest. "I think we should take advantage of that big sign and monopolize it and put all our stuff on there all the time," he said. "And that way we're controlling what is being said, like, 'Aren't you glad you're leaving Pittsburg? Welcome to Antioch.' And then on the other side put stuff about the (Antioch) events."
In recommending to the Pittsburg council that it reject Antioch's appeal of the billboard, Pittsburg City Manager Marc Grisham noted that Pittsburg's General Plan has a goal to support the development and expansion of regionally oriented commercial activities in the area.
His report notes that while the billboard might not "always advertise a commercial business located in the area, it would draw attention to the commercial nature of the Loveridge sub-area, thereby helping to support the development of the area's commercial activities and businesses."
In February, Clear Channel Outdoor agreed to remove five other billboards in Pittsburg in exchange for placing the large billboard on Highway 4 near the Thrifty used car lot on Leland Road.
Pittsburg officials did not respond to a request to comment.
Click here for link to video of the meeting