City Cracking Down On Utility Pole Flyers – December 1, 2010

Community Volunteer Patroller Lil Stodder strips a utility pole at Seventh and H streets. KLH | Eye

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

ARCATA – Something many Arcatans probably consider part of their daily cultural life is the utility pole flyers advertising shows, events, causes, yard sales, anti-medical marijuana conspiracies, lost kittens or random abstract whimsy. But to others, they’re just ugly, and mostly wind up as litter.

The real problem is that flyers are usually not legal, according to state law.

California Penal Code section 556.1 states that, “It is unlawful for anyone to place signs advertising sales or items for sale on property other than their own without prior permission.”

Who cares? Apparently some Arcata residents do, according to APD Lt. Ryan Peterson.

“We’ve received complaints from the public, that they look terrible,” he said. Another problem is that few to no flyer-posters come back and remove the notices once the advertised event has taken place, so the flyers are blown off the poles by weather, end up on the ground as litter or flushed into the storm drains.

To abate the problem, APD is contacting event promoters by letter and via personal contacts, and having members of its Citizen Volunteer Patrol Program take them down.

That’s what CVPP member Lil Stodder was doing Friday afternoon. “It’s very tedious, but I enjoy it,” she said as she extracted staples from the pole at Seventh and H streets. “I get lost in it.”

Pete Ciotti, who promotes events for Jambalaya as well as his band, The Nucleus, is reluctantly complying. “I have heard about the crackdown and received letters from the city as well at the Jambalaya,” he said. “We have complied with the city and asked our promoters not to post on the poles, but I don’t think there is really any way the City is going to be able to stop this from happening. Besides the occasional littering that occurs on the streets I don’t see why this is that much of a big deal.”

While Arcata-based flyer-posters are generally cooperative, Peterson said Eureka clubs like the Red Fox Tavern and Nocturnum have been resistant to reform. “They don’t have a lot of buy-in,” he said.

He noted that many stores offer legal flyer-posting space and that there are also public bulletin boards available for them.

In the course of analyzing the flyers, APD has learned of events that weren’t properly permitted, having bypassed safety signoffs from the City, the Fire Department and APD.

Concluded Ciotti, “If everyone did their part to be a little neater and cleaner about it and picked up the flyers the next day it may make it less of a problem.”



  1. Mark Sailors said:

    California is not one of those places. California is also a state that issues tickets to bike riders that are the same monetary fine as the driver of a car receives. That’s $220 for running a stop sign and the will suspend your DRIVERS license if you don’t pay it.

  2. Scott Vernum said:

    Many places allow for flyers, as long as they’re removed after 7 (or whatever is allowed) days. Then a ticket is issued.

  3. Paul Hooker said:

    Instead of dealing with the problem, just legalize it!

  4. B Swizlo said:

    I always thought it would be a good idea for all of the venues, promoters, and local bands and artists create a group to go out and volunteer their time and clean up the poles. Or maybe we can get a grant to build safe, clean posting sites or canopies around town. the main goal is to work together, keep the town looking nice and less polluted. The advertising is important because these businesses, bands, dance instructors, yard sales etc all need to get their word out.

  5. J. Miller said:

    You’re not going to change someone’s behavior for the better with just a big stick. You’re going to have to add some carrot to the mix.

    What’s the base problem? Rusty staples that can hurt someone. What’s the basic solution? People stop leaving rusty staples in telephone poles. Reward the correct behavior, punish the incorrect behavior. It’s akin to training a dog.

    Oh, and early condolences on getting people to stop putting flyers on telephone poles. It was a noble effort, if entirely in vain.

  6. Mark Sailors said:

    OK, it is not just Arcata where it is not legal to post signs on utility poles, it is the entire state (California Penal Code section 556.1). The litter is a HUGE problem, but it the STAPLES left behind that are DANGEROUS.

  7. Mrs Tinkle said:

    It wouldn’t be a problem if people went back and took down the signs they put up. Instead, they invariably waste away rotting on the pole until the last final rains wash them into the drain. The entire county is plagued by festering yard sale signs left to linger until nature takes its course. What is so difficult about taking them down after putting them up? It’s more than an eyesore, it’s just plain rude. Clean up after yourselves, people. Good for the city of Arcata for taking a stand against it. I would personally volunteer my time to go around McKinleyville, gathering signs with the final outcome of some yard sale holders receiving fines (or at least having to remove a certain number of staples from poles).

  8. Mark Sailors said:

    So now it is a privilege to break the law?


    Find a new way to advertise.

  9. J. Miller said:

    Perhaps a compromise: a nice, fat ticket, that can alternatively be paid off by going out and cleaning a few poles, with a quiet understanding that people won’t generally be ticketed if the signs come down in a reasonable timeframe.

    People can keep posting flyers. Those who abuse the privilege get a few dirty power poles to consider the error of their ways, and those who remember to clean up behind themselves are rewarded with continued posting privileges.

  10. Daniel Wasserman said:

    Ask a lineman (lineperson?) how they feel about their need for tetanus shots, sutures, and anti-biotics following the gashes they receive when climbing and descending poles, which belong to their employers.

    It is bad enough these persons must come out when poles are struck by errant or intoxicated drivers on cold and rainy nights, with little or no thanks from the public. Add to the insult of working in frequently hazardous traffic, they also must endure the injuries caused by rusted and sharp metal so a band can promote its’ performance.

    Carried one step farther, the flyers left behind inevitably litter our streets and sidewalks before they clog our storm drains and end up in our sewer system. All of this costs city employees (and tax payers) that could be avoided by making an effort to post in windows and by using the many local radio stations free announcement services.

  11. Mark Sailors said:

    LOL, My best friends are the people I agree with the least, more to talk about. I love the IDEA of the flyers, its the STAPLES that bug me, they are dangerous and a real public nuisance. There are poles that encroach on the walking space terribly making it almost impossible to pass by them without bumping into them, let alone ROLL past them in a wheelchair. These same poles are COVERED with rusty razor sharp staples. It is just plain dangerous.
    Its like when they said “no Ag in residential units”,talking about medical cannabis, thats all well and good if it applies to every one.
    It does not, as i could point out several locations in Arcata where people are selling produce, and or eggs from their residential houses. One set of rule applied equally to everyone.

    The law does not allow for the posting of signs on public utility poles for a reason.

    Is it now OK to pick and choose what laws we obey?

    Is it OK to let the venues, promoters, and artists off the hook, when we make people caught doing graffiti pay a fine and PERSONALLY do the removal?

    I think not.

  12. kevpod said:

    Sigh. For two such pleasant fellows, we disagree on so much, Mark. I LOVE utility pole flyers. They’re part of the reason I live here in Arcata. They’re samizdat, bypassing centralized news dissemination sources. And I agree with Pete – there’s no stopping ’em.

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  14. Brian- The Red Fox Tavern said:

    I feel that it is necessary to respond when our name is brought up for the sake of resolve.
    Our staff at the Red Fox don’t post our flyers on the poles, but we do know that if a band is going to be playing at our venue, then there will be some promotions. We have received letters and are doing our best to remind the musicians to please utilize the store fronts and other allowed spots to advertise, and we will continue to do so. It takes time to make this happen because so many people post on the poles.
    One thing a band or promoter can do is take down any posters that are up after the show is over so the pollution will be kept to a minimum. I actually wrote an article for the Arcata Eye, years ago, concerning this very subject. Rest assured, considering I am a musician and do some advertising in Arcata, that the Red Fox has taken steps to remind anyone who does flyers to keep them from the poles.

  15. Mark Sailors said:

    Not to be a party pooper, but I have heard around town that there is a person that almost lost his eye after crashing/walking into one of those god awful poles. The city should crack down on the posters of posters. Tickets and fines for the folks that post the fliers and for the promoter/venue that is hosting the show. The city could be held liable for the injuries people suffer because they have failed to enforce the law.

    On another, sort of related side note. How long does a bike stay locked to a bike lockup, loosing parts every few days? The bike at the top of the steps at crab field has been there since at least march.

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