Letters to the Editor

Scenic Highway 101 designation is worthwhile

Is it really worthwhile for SLO County to have billboards? In his letter (“Billboards preserve open space,” Oct. 26), Keith Gurnee described learning that billboard income contributes to ranching viability and retention of open space. Should we then encourage more billboards along our roads and highways to benefit ag businesses?

Protect Scenic 101 (PS101) views billboards for attorneys, hospitals and banks, mattresses and windows, another county’s pea soup restaurant and casino, etc., as intrusive. Billboards no longer guide lodging and restaurant decisions. This function has been replaced, first by print media and now by the Internet.

Travelers, and ag businesses in three other Central Coast counties — Santa Barbara, Ventura and Monterey — have managed without billboards for decades. Santa Barbara and Ventura counties basically eliminated all billboards, and Monterey County eliminated most. In those counties, businesses and travelers have managed to find each other and profit, and ranching and agriculture continue along Highway 101 with scenic land unspoiled by billboards.

Retiring billboard leases and donating billboard rights to an appropriate entity can be profitable for landowners. Ag preservation contracts reduce the cost of property taxes greatly. A Scenic Highway 101 designation would encourage these voluntary solutions, not require them.

James Lopes, San Luis Obispo

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