San Jose

Debate Brewing Over Digital Billboards at San Jose Airport

NBC Universal, Inc.

For 35 years, San Jose has banned any new billboards from going up.

But in 2018, the city council voted to allow 22 new ones on public land. It’s been debated ever since.

Now, there’s a proposal on the table for two digital billboards to be built at San Jose International Airport along Highway 101. If passed, they would be the first ones and would be located just north of the terminals.

Officials said the airport’s cut of the ad revenue would be at least, half a million dollars per year. SJC would also get to advertise on the signs – 10% of the time.

“There is a benefit beyond just the revenue that we receive from advertisers. In fact, it’s significant the benefit we receive in that we can use those billboards to help promote and communicate to the community that we serve about the new services that are available,” said Scott Wintner, SJC Deputy Director of Marketing & Communications.

The airport commission voted 5-1 Wednesday night to not recommend the project to go forward. But the San Jose City Council will make the final decision at a meeting on Feb 15.

There are many vocal opponents who spoke at the airport commission’s meeting Wednesday night.

Among them, astronomers at the lick observatory who argue it would add to the light pollution in the Valley, that could affect their work. Others argue they would distract drivers.

There is also a grassroots organization “No Digital Billboards in San Jose.” They pointed out a city survey, showing 93% of residents don’t want them.

“So, we ask the question, is it worth it? Is it worth it to trash the landscape in San Jose? To destroy the architectural integrity and the historic character of the city. For what, a tiny percentage of one-percent of the city’s operating budget?” said John Miller, co-founder of "No Digital Billboards in San Jose."

Clear Channel would build and run the billboards. It has agreed to remove eight signs to make up for the new ones.

“This project will reduce the total number of billboards in San Jose. This project will effectively relocate billboards out of residential areas and onto freeways,” said Bob Schmidt with Clear Channel.

They said that the FAA has cleared the project.

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