Trades three small spots for one full billboard

ATASCADERO — The City of Atascadero is changing its approach to enticing motorists off the freeway with a new billboard contract that will concentrate advertising efforts to one billboard near Curbaril Avenue. 

The City’s previous contract with billboard owners Cliff Branch and Jim Smith gave them 14-foot by 18-foot spaces on three billboards located along the city’s stretch of Highway 101. Under the new contract, the City will get an entire 14-foot by 40-foot billboard, located at 8981 La Lina Avenue, for $4,200 in yearly lease and maintenance costs. The billboard is located on land owned by Donald and Linda Messer. 

“There are a lot of benefits to advertising for the city,” City Manager Rachelle Rickard said. “We want to get people off of the freeway and into our businesses and into our restaurants.”

The previous billboard agreement juxtaposed advertisements for the city’s events and zoo with advertisements for unrelated businesses including breweries and marijuana dispensaries, providing a context that was not always ideal, Rickard said, calling the new agreement “a very good thing for the city, a very good thing for our residents.”


“This will allow us to control the message a lot better,” she said. “This allows us more freedom.” 

The new agreement will not only keep the City’s messages free from accidental association with unrelated businesses, it will also prohibit the billboard owners from advertising goods and services that some would consider unsavory. The list of prohibited content includes profanity, pornography and advertisements for tobacco, cannabis products, CBD, vaping products, massage parlors and x-rated adult entertainment. The agreement also prohibits Branch and Smith from advertising any other City and any product or service that cannot be purchased by people under the age of 18, except as allowed in writing by the city manager. 

“The biggest thing is to control the message and we haven’t been able to do that with the panels,” said Terry Banish, Deputy City Manager of Outreach, Events and Promotions. “This way we can really partner with folks in downtown Atascadero and work with that, promoting our events even harder. We can encourage people to get off the freeway and enjoy our stores and shops and that’s important.” 

The previous agreement with Branch and Smith would have expired in August of 2028 but the new contract gives them the option to extend the agreement to 2050. The cost to the City to lease and maintain the billboard will increase at a rate of $12 per year and each time the City decides to change its billboard, it will cost an estimated $1,000 for printing and installation. 

The City Council voted unanimously to approve the amended billboard agreement. 

“This is the kind of win-win solution that we’re trying to achieve,” said Council member Susan Funk.