Battle for SLO supervisor seat prompts illegal signs

April 16, 2014


A sitting San Luis Obispo County supervisor seeking to keep her seat has dozens of campaign signs placed on county and state property in violation of the law.

Typically, candidates get permission from supporters to place signs on private property. Campaign signs are not permitted on public lands such as parks or public right of ways like highway on-ramps.

Last week, supporters of Supervisor Caren Ray placed campaign signs on public property spanning much of southern San Luis Obispo County, where her district is located. Ray, whom Governor Jerry Brown appointed last year to fill a vacant seat on the board of supervisors, is running for election against Nipomo businesswoman Lynn Compton and Arroyo Grande real estate broker Mike Byrd. The district encompasses all of Nipomo and Oceano and some of Arroyo Grande.

Ray Freeway Sign

A Caren Ray sign next to Highway 101 in Nipomo

Dozens of Ray’s signs popped up in strategic South County locations, including along Tefft Street in Old Town Nipomo, Willow Road on the Nipomo Mesa and Los Berros Road in rural Arroyo Grande. Ray supporters also attached her signs to freeway fencing and next to on and off-ramps, a violation of state regulations.

Ray said Monday that her volunteers placed the signs in the public locations, and her campaign staff is deciding what to do about them.

“Some of our volunteers, it appears, got a little over zealous, and we’re figuring out what to do with them right now,” Ray said.

The state of California owns land adjacent to Highway 101 up and down the freeway, and Caltrans maintains the property. Caltrans spokesman Colin Jones said the agency has received a few complaints about political signs and that it would take down signs deemed in violation of the law.

The county, however, controls most of the right of ways on which Ray’s signs have been wrongly placed. County transportation planner Glenn Marshall said the county’s public works department received three complaints about political signs, prompting him to send a worker out Monday to investigate. The county worker found that each of the three candidates had signs placed in right of ways, Marshall said.

Compton said she never had any signs in right of ways.

“We have permission for every sign,” Compton said. “Every single one is on private property.”

Byrd said he briefly had several signs placed in Nipomo right of ways. A supporter of his positioned them next to Ray’s signs thinking it was legal to do so, Byrd said.


A Caren Ray sign next to a community park sign at a Nipomo intersection

“When he saw all of Caren’s, he assumed, she being a supervisor, that they were all in legal places,” Byrd said.

Less than a day later, the volunteer took down the signs, Byrd said.

In the past, the county has rounded up numerous political signs placed in right of ways and stored them in its road maintenance yard. It has been common practice to do so, Marshall said.

But, the county has made no indication yet that it plans to remove any of the signs currently standing in right of ways. On Monday, a public works employee sent an email to candidates reminding them of campaign sign regulations.

Before removing signs, the county sends candidates three notifications of code violations, Marshall said.

County code, however, only allows candidates to have signs standing in the 60 days leading up to the election, as well as the 14 days following. The 2014 primary election will take place on June 3.

Some supporters of Compton allege that Marshall is using his position to aid the campaign of Ray. As a county supervisor, Ray is one of the highest ranking officials in the agency in which Marshall is employed.

Marshall also serves as a member of the Grover Beach City Council. Last December, Marshall voted to boot Mayor Debbie Peterson from the county air pollution control district board after receiving pressure to do so from Supervisor Adam Hill, a close ally of Ray’s.

Marshall said he does not support candidates.

“I don’t support any candidate,” Marshall said. “I have never given any support to anyone ever.”

Compton Sign

A Lynn Compton sign in front of an Oceano home

While the county has not pressed the issue, many Compton signs also appear to violate code. A section of the county code restricts the size of signs placed in urban areas of unincorporated communities like Nipomo and Oceano. The code limits sign sizes to four square feet in residential areas and 16 square feet in commercial areas of those towns.

Compton has numerous 32-square-foot signs, many of which are in core areas of Oceano.

She said she would take the signs down if the county deems them out of compliance with code.

“If they are in violation, I will take them down immediately,” Compton said. “I want to follow the law.”

Marshall said the county has not investigated political sign sizes this election season.

Critics of Compton have also accused her of violating a little known state law restricting the placement of signs near highways. The code prohibits the placement of campaign signs within 660 of landscaped sections of freeways.

However, no area of Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo County south of the Arroyo Grande Village is designated a landscaped section, according to Caltrans.



There are many ways to play this game….1) ask the owner if they want the sign up… if they don’t offer to take it down and bring it to their trash area 2) put your own signs next to it… There was a certain rule in the field… for every sign the opposition took down of ours… we put up 5.

Kevin Rice

The illegal sign locations are just “clerical errors and rookie mistakes”.

fishing village

Relax everyone I know she’ll take them down immediately. Nice try volunteers, but read the laws/rules more carefully next time. Lots of luck Caren you are a terrific woman and an outstanding candidate. We NEED you on our board.


Would there be a problem with a person removing a illegally displayed sign?


In general, illegal advertising on private property is for the owner to take down, and on public property anyone can take it down as it is like a cigarette butt on the street, it is classed as legally abandoned property which anyone may take, use as their own, discard, etc.

However, I’m too lazy to google and analyze the county campaign sign law. Many such laws offer protection of “sniping” or the practice of just making them “disappear” by removal. Some say that even illegal, oversize, or posted-too-early signs when on public lands may not be taken down at the personal whim of individuals, nor opponents.

I’m surprised at the size limit Compton exceeded, and I suspect that a four square foot limit wouldn’t pass first amendment muster if someone litigated it to the level of an appellate court. To my knowledge that issue hasn’t been locally litigated.


Well I suppose that until it is litigated, it is the law. Even at the 16 SF that the city of AG allows, those giant signs are 2x or 4x what is allowed.


So it sounds like you are saying anybody can take down a sign illegally posted on any road right of way, or other public property?


In the absence of a specific campaign sign law that grants a sort of fuzzy “it may be illegal but don’t exercise common rights of removal such as for garbage or litter”, yes, I am saying that anyone can remove any such campaign signs.

I have walked Interlake Road to pick up trash near my ranch gate since even before the first Wildflower Triathlon. I enjoy the sun anyway. People probably think I’m on some DUI sentence clean up crew. I don’t care much what passing drivers think. I’m a certifiable clean up nut and I believe I can operate under the “abandoned property” theory.


While you’re at it guys, since you are so conscientious about signage, would you mind taking down all of the Supercuts signs, The Hide Out signs and of course, all of the various garage sale signs, too, that are on “the public right-of-way” where ever that may be. On my land it happens to be three feet inside of my fence which is already six feet away from the street. Oh, by the way that reminds me, don’t forget to take your tape measure with you as each road has a different measure to comply with and better do it under the cover of darkness as I’m sure you won’t want to be photographed doing something that someone might consider illegal:)) Good luck from the Duck:))


DUI crews don’t do highway cleanup anymore, to dangerous for them…


I guess SLO county judges and police officers didn’t want to pick up trash after their DUI’s and wait a minutes that’s right they used their positions to make their DUI’s go away. So I guess it is just the normal people that this affects.


Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Reality Check

IN the past, County / City officials removed and destroyed candidate signs placed on public property. If they’re not doing so in The case of Ray’s illegal signs, shame on them. BUT then what does one expect of corrupt officials who play favorites?


“Out of Reality,” here is your check – The County never destroyed signs that they confiscated. They took them to a yard and then notified the candidates that they could come and pick them up if they wanted to…which, of course, they did and if they were smart they put them out again. And so the game is played. Who ever told you they destroyed them, Silly?

It has nothing to do with Ms. Ray. It’s the same for everyone…EXCEPT if you put large signs on private property it takes a LOT longer to deal with so the BIGGEST CHEATER and the BIGGEST SPENDER is the one who’s BIG SIGNS will remain the longest. Get it, REALITY…are you checked yet?

Why does it take longer you ask? Oh…legal stuff which only a NEW LAWYER would have figured out:)) Go learn…

Oh, those wily lawyer types sure know how to skirt the law!


Caren Ray (aka as SLO-Cop-You-Later) a member of the SLO Hash House Harriers that she belongs to, could run around this weekend in their naked selves around South County and remove those signs in no time. This would be the right then to do immediately, but then again, Ms. Ray doesn’t know right because she hasn’t run for an office before, she just keeps getting appointed.

Read this article in:…

We don’t need this caliber of person representing the South County. Please, vote for someone with moral conviction. As it is, we have Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill, two of the most corrupt, immoral, rude, and bias politicians of all time.


It looks like the Hash House Harriers held a special event for one of their special members. A Hash -A-Thon was held to put up as many signs as possible…then get drunk.

Instead, it has turned into a Disaster Hash. (look it up)


Bruce Gibson supporters have started doing the same thing. Saw a few signs placed on public portion of LOVR this week.


Desperate situations call for drastic measures. they know their chances of winning are slim to none at best.

miles archer

Can we keep to reality without all the redundant hyperbole about Adam Hill? Jeez…make an anti-Adam Facebook page, gather with torches & pitchforks, whatever and get it out of your system. Or here’s a novel idea, simply try VOTING him out. Until then, not every local issue is linked to him okay?

Now, according to the details in THIS story, all THREE are guilty of minor infractions that are pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Simple solution here…move the signs, slap a few wrists and then we can get back to the relevent issues and what each candidate stands for.

If you really want to lose some sleep, take a look into what Big Corp/Koch Bros have planned for the midterm/2016 elections.


But don’t less us forget George Sores (Pelosi’s brother in crime) and the unions. Koch brothers are going to do what the unions have done for years.

I would be happy if corporations and unions were outlawed in all the elections.

But, until then, let’s not be deceitful!


So then where does that put you on the Lincoln Club, one of Compton’s large supporters? They brought us SuperPACs and unlimited anonymous corporate donations. I guess as far as deceitful goes, you are not a fan of voter slates either.


I am 100% against big money in all elections. When did we the people lose control of our political system, when unions took control. As for corporations, I am also against corporations.

I truly believe that we the people, individuals only, should contribute to elections, contribute to as many as you like but limit the amount you can give.

If your info, not that it is any of your business, I am a registered independent. I vote for the personal and not a party of corruption which there is plenty to go around. I don’t believe I have stated WHO to vote for, just who not to vote for based on morals, corruption and association.

And yes, I contribute to these I believe would serve the people best. Do you?


I appreciate the response and agree completely. With the premise. As for affiliation, I’m a libertarian (but a pragmatic one).

Your position is why I support Ray. Aside from some cooked article full of misrepresentations and innuendo, there is no question about morality. If that is a basis for decision I suggest one expand beyond these forums for news. I see no basis for corruption or partisanship. Her voting record is very balanced and is more likely to vote with Arnold than Hill on close votes. When she makes one of these votes you here a careful analysis considering a variety of issues which don’t include how another supervisor may vote. That doesn’t always mean she votes the way I would, but I am willing to accept that there are more valid views in the world than mine. As for association, again, using these forums as a sole source provides a skewed perspective.

All the distracting rhetoric aside, the fact is she is independent, thoughtful, and the most experienced by a long shot. There really is no comparison. If one looks at performance the story is over that is why the focus must be on association and distraction.


1inthemiddle, I think I too appreciate your openness. If you believe for one minute this is the source of my news you are so wrong.

1. I personally know people that know Ray on a personal level. Her moral compass does not in manner come even close to my. I truly believe a person with morals brings to the table other attributes of trust, honesty, openness, and behavior.

2. I know people that have kids that talk about her drinking, stories, etc.

3. I would just ask you to think openly for a minute. Do you really think that Ray would at this point associate herself with Adam. This is a ploy since none, and I do mean none, of her votes have been the deciding vote. She has played her game plan well.

4. But, I will not vote or support any immoral person, We have enough problems with our local politicians and we don’t need to add more to the cesspool.


Basically, SLOW-BIRD, you have proven yourself to be an unimportant vote based on your above condemnation of another based on “hearsay.” Take your Holier-than-thou attitude and vote for the Fraud. She deserves your moral phoniness. The two of you can pump yourselves up together. Pump away and tell yourselves how much better you are than others because you have such outstanding morals. I hope when you reach the pearly gates He who will judge you agrees, but I somehow I doubt it because you seem to hold yourself in too high regard! That alone is a sin. Come down off of your high horse. Speak only from your own personal knowledge or keep your slander to yourself!


SLOBIRD, your previous postings show your biased view so the statements of I know a guy who knows a guy seem week at best.


I won’t respond further to either of you because obviously are moral compass differs and I really don’t want a slut to represent me and since you have other priorities, do for it.

We just have to agree to disagree as to what is important and right in this election.

Morals, honesty, and associations are important for me. You obviously have different beliefs!


But…but…birds of a feather flock together. Rhetorically speaking, it’s simply a way of killing two birds with one stone.

Or….a sign in the hand might just be worth two in the bush ;-)


Don’t criticize the messenger.

If you are tired of reading about Adam HIll’ s uncontrollable able and unethical behaviors, then you have at least two choices.

1. Try to talk some sense into Supervisor HIll.

2. Avoid reading articles which you find objectionable in general and, specifically about HIll.