The visual clutter of newsracks within Big Bear Lake, and specifically the Village L, will soon be reduced—and safety enhanced—given actions taken by the City Council of Big Bear Lake last night. According to the City’s Director of Planning Jim Miller, “This started three years ago”.
The Planning Commission addressed updated newsrack ordinances in August and again in January, and presented their recommendations to Council in February—however, that meeting was snowed out, so the proposed new Municipal Code (for public properties) and Development Code (for private) were finally addressed by Council’s Rick Herrick, Bill Jahn, Liz Harris and Darrell Mulvihill on March 9. (Councilmember Michael Karp was not present, though excused.) Miller presented City Council with a number of visuals, outlining the clusters of public newsracks (featuring not just newspapers, but free brochures and real estate publications) and, noting the long line of them outside the Big Bear Lake Post Office, Miller said, “I think my last count was 21.” Miller and city staff had pinpointed nine potential locations within the Village L that would be appropriate and ADA-compliant placement for newsracks, though the post office on Pine Knot was not on that list, which also included the Planning Commission’s recommendations, including a limit to one of four colors per site, and a uniform, pedestal-mounted design.
Jerry Wright, publisher of “The Big Bear Grizzly,” pointed out that the cost of rack replacement, in addition to the loss of the newspaper’s branding color, would cost them an estimated $13,000 over the five year amortization period presented for private locations; while Annette Karnes, president of the Board of Realtors, pointed out, “This is a horribly tough time for brokers.” On the other end of the spectrum, Village merchants including Tim Wolcott spoke in favor of the ordinances and the reduction of newsracks along sidewalks. As Wolcott told Council, “Five years is way too long and certainly way too long in the Village for these eyesores. They’re blocking benches and flowers. I would really recommend not having nine locations. One would be sufficient.”
Council spent much time on the debate, which included consideration of the nine potential newsrack locations, the number of allowable colors, and cost to publishers (who, at present, pay an annual $53 fee for the public space). Given City Manager Jeff Mathieu’s directive that “we want to have a unified, quality appearance in Big Bear Lake,” Council members bandied about three different motions, and ultimately settled on one that will go up for final adoption at a future meeting, perhaps March 23. Per the City Council vote of 4-0, newsracks within Big Bear Lake will be of one standard design and in one color (bronze); compliance will need to be achieved within 180 days on public space, within three years on private property; there will be just three newsrack locations in the Village L (the Indian and Bartlett parking lots and at the liquor store on Pine Knot); and the annual fee will be waived for the first three years.