First Amendment Project: CalTrans Broke the Law by Confiscating Peripheral Tunnel Opponents’ Signs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, July 11, 2013

Contact: Steve Hopcraft 916/457-5546;; Twitter: @shopcraft

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla 209/479-2053;

Twitter: @RestoretheDelta

First Amendment Project: CalTrans Broke the Law by Confiscating Peripheral Tunnel Opponents’ Signs:

“Caltrans did not have any legal basis to remove the signs”

Sacramento, CA – Restore the Delta today released an expert legal opinion finding that the California Department of Transportation’s (CalTrans) confiscation of “Save the Delta! Stop the Tunnels!” signs displayed by Delta land and business owners was done without “any legal basis.” The legal opinion from the First Amendment Project to Restore the Delta refutes CalTrans’ assertion that the signs are illegal, and cites a 1996 Attorney General opinion finding that the “expression of a political belief by a property owner whether displayed by signs or otherwise” is constitutionally protected. Restore the Delta called on Gov. Brown to stop using CalTrans to silence critics of his proposed Peripheral Tunnels, and to order CalTrans crews to cease removing the signs from private property. Restore the Delta will hold a protest in front of CalTrans headquarters on Friday morning, July 12, at 10 am.

“We are outraged that the Brown Administration is trampling the rights of business and land owners who have posted signs on their property opposing the Peripheral Tunnels,” said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta.

“State government officials are acting like bullies and are interfering with the rights of Delta residents to state how they feel about Governor Brown’s plan to build the twin tunnels which will destroy their homes, their businesses, Bay area and coastal fisheries, and the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast of the Americas.

“CalTrans did not follow the required process about notifying people to move signs if CalTrans believed they were not located properly.  CalTrans does not have the right to enter private property to remove signs without following the legal process described in the Business and Professions Code.

“Delta residents were threatened by CalTrans employees with huge $10,000 fines. CalTrans told Restore the Delta that residents could be fined if their signs were not 660 feet from the public right of way.

“CalTrans does not enforce these same requirements up and down Hwy 99, H146, and I-5, where the water-takers post signs about wanting even more water at the expense of the Delta.  The law is not enforced equally throughout the state — one standard for the Delta, one standard for mega growers in Westlands, Semitropic and Kern County water districts.  This unequal treatment of Delta residents under the law mirrors how water quality and quantity laws for the Delta are ignored by the State Water Resources Control Board, the Department of Water Resources, and the Delta Stewardship Council — all to benefit Westside San Joaquin Valley mega-growers.

“Who decided that our signs needed to be confiscated?  Is the Delta now fully under the ‘control’ of the State of California that they can dictate to private land and business owners?” said Barrigan-Parrilla.

Click here to view the First Amendment Opinion Letter. 

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