Sign-stealing is a hallmark of local politics. But Stockton-based Restore The Delta isn’t blaming a bunch of campaign volunteers for some missing protest signs. It’s blaming the California Department of Transportation.

The sign at the center of the controversy (Save Our Delta)
The sign at the center of the controversy (Save Our Delta)

The group opposes one of Gov. Jerry Brown’s top priorities: two massive tunnels that would divert water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Save Our Delta’s executive director, Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, said a Delta landowner witnessed Caltrans employees removing a “Save Our Delta — Stop The Tunnels” sign from his property.

Barrigan-Parrilla confronted Caltrans about the move, and said a state official told her the agency is just enforcing laws keeping private signs at least 14 feet from state roads.

“We were definitely singled out at Restore The Delta. They went after our signs with our logo,” she said. “Whether it came directly from the governor’s office, or the head of Caltrans, or some midlevel or entry-level employee decided to do this, it does reflect the culture within state government on what the attitude is toward Delta communities.”

Caltrans hasn’t returned KQED’s calls for comment. But a spokesman confirmed the sign removals to the Sacramento Bee:

In response to an inquiry from The Bee, Caltrans spokesman Matt Rocco said a different state law is at work. He did not cite a specific legal code section, but said “any private sign” is forbidden within 14 feet of a state right of way.

“Therefore,” Rocco said, “if signs are placed beyond the 14-foot limit from the pavement edge, they will not be removed.”

But as Barrigan-Parrilla pointed out, it’s pretty hard to read a sign that’s more than 14 feet from the highway.


Scott Detrow

Sacramento bureau chief Scott Detrow covers state government, politics and policy for KQED News and its statewide news program, The California Report.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor