New billboard policy in San Jose

San Jose has prohibited billboards on city-owned land since 1972, and leaders of the council even passed a ban on billboards in 1985. However, in recent years, cities from Denver and Detroit have reevaluated billboard policies; some have started to advocate for large-scale advertisements that may create opportunities to more revenue and promote public art.  

“While we should consider how we might increase commercial vibrancy, bring in additional revenue to the city, and relocate some existing billboards in undesirable location in our community, we should do so cautiously,” wrote Mayor Sam Liccardo in a recent memo. (The Mercury News)

Mayor Liccardo is in favor of companies to put up new billboards and replace old billboards, especially in those neighborhood which are considered less desirable. But some companies have denied the the idea .

“Regulations or requirements that favor incumbent companies that can remove standardized billboards ensures that legacy billboards companies will have an advantage for the downtown signs, which would deprive the city of the opportunity to select a company most qualified to operate to downtown sites.” (The Mercury News)

Some officials prefer to preserve San Jose’s marketing, culture, and history just the way it was in past years.

“We’ve already lost the Lou’s Village sign and the original Valley Fair sign,” said Ken Yeager, Santa Clara County Supervisor, to The Mercury News. “Now, we could potentially lose the sign from Orchard Supply Hardware, Stephen’s Mears, and the Time Deli. These are vital pieces of our history and we need to know how many of them there are and what their condition and legal status is.”

Some pieces of billboards have significant meaning to San Jose, so removing them would be a loss to San Jose’s history. On the other hand, Mayor Liccardo argued that there is a difference between historical image and new innovations. He said that he would listen to residents more before allowing billboards appear in town, but he also reminded that limiting advertisements decline promotion of tobacco products.

The City Council will vote for the proposal on Tuesday that would allow billboards advertising at city-owned properties downtown and near the airport. This may shift differently in how San Jose has approached the issues of billboards in past years.