County workers acting on citizen complaints removed campaign signs from the road right-of-way in Cambria and Nipomo on Thursday.
A “half a pickup truck bed” of the signs was removed from Cambria alone, Glenn Marshall, an engineer with county Public Works, said Friday. All the signs confiscated were taken to the county road yard at 1425 Kansas Ave., off Highway 1 west of San Luis Obispo. The signs’ owners can pick them up there over the next two weeks. Then any remaining signs will be thrown away.
There was one complaint from each community that he knew of, Marshall said, adding that, “technically, to do anything in the right of way, you need to have an encroachment permit.”
Only campaign signs that were “clearly in the right of way” were taken, he said. They’re typically left unless there’s a complaint, and “we get some complaints every election season.”
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The seizures didn’t sit well with Barbara Bronson Gray, wife of Tom Gray, a candidate for the Cambria services district board and herself a member of the town’s healthcare district board. Barbara Gray called it a free speech issue and cited legal precedent that gives First Amendment rights to free speech priority over broad restrictions on public expression in traditional public forums such as streets, sidewalks and parks.
But Cambria resident Steve Kniffen, himself a declared write-in candidate for both the school and services district boards, was happy to see the signs gone.
“It was not me (who took them),” Kniffen wrote in an email to a reporter, “but I love it! Somebody else has had enough of the litter.”