Stop Billboard Pollution in Oakland
  • Petitioning Lars Skugstad

This petition will be delivered to:

Foster Interstate Media, billboard company
Lars Skugstad
City of Oakland Planner, Oakland Army Base
Douglas Cole
CalTrans, District 4 Director
Bijan Sartipi

Stop Billboard Pollution in Oakland

    1. Karen Hester
    2. Petition by

      Karen Hester

      Oakland, CA

No New Billboards in Oakland. Super-sized digital billboards are a blight on the landscape, distract drivers and commercialize airspace. They would bring a negligible amount of money to the City of Oakland for a 66 year lease that locks Oakland into a short-sighted way to raise funds. 

In 2012, the Oakland City Council paved the way for five additional super-bright billboards, a visual assault that will accost residents and visitors as they arrive over the new Bay Bridge into Oakland and the East Bay. The sweetheart deal avoided all public process and was buried in some 900 pages of documentation. The deal grants developers and the billboard companies a 66-year lease and at least 60% of the expected revenues. Who benefits from this sale and commercialization of the public realm? Clearly not Oakland residents.

CalTrans must reject the application (not yet received) from Foster Interstate Media based on enforcement of the Highway Beautification Act against digital billboards because of light pollution. A lawsuit has been filed in federal court demanding its enforcement by Scenic America. * CalTrans must reject the application based on its own regulations including no "business activity" located within 1000 of proposed sites and the fact that the proposed Gateway Park, will be a "landscaped highway" in the future.

Lack of transparency with the public: The billboards should have been an explicit part of the negotiation that the city made with the army base developer and the community. Perhaps some people on the inside knew about the addition of the billboards, but from the perspective of the general community, it was not clear that new billboards were part of the army base deal. If City staff and City Council members think there is case to be made for the billboards, it should be made in the public domain. False trade-off between community benefits and billboards: Linking proposed "community benefits" with the billboards is a red herring. These two issues are completely distinct and the line of reasoning that suggests these billboards are required to fund community benefits associated with the Army Base project is specious. As was the case with the Fox Theater and Oakland School for the Arts in '05 and '07, suggesting that the only way to get public benefits is by creating a new source of revenue for a developer by creating a public detriment is in direct conflict with the whole premise that developers must provide community benefits in exchange for generating private profits from public resources.   Lack of clarity about revenue from billboards: City negotiators say the revenue will be used for a "job center" in West Oakland even though recent press indicates only 50 jobs may be created in the first 3 years and only 1000 total. **



Recent signatures


    1. Stopping 3 new billboards at Bay Bridge--commentary in Oakland Tribune

      Karen Hester
      Petition Organizer

      Dear Folks,

      We placed the following guest commentary about stopping "sky trash" from Oakland skyline which would have digital monstrosities towering only 16 feet above elevated bike and ped lanes as they go into the Bay Bridge bike path off Grand Ave. Let candidates for City Council and Mayor's race in Oakland know how you feel. Please share our commentary widely and comment on website. MTC (Metropolitan Transportation Commission) also picked up our piece and ran it as part of their daily headlines.

      Karen Hester

      Guest commentary: Must not allow electronic skytrash to proliferate

      By John Sutter, Kent Lewandowski, Naomi Schiff and Karen Hester © 2014 Bay Area News Group Posted: 10/06/2014 12:51:56 PM PDT Updated: 10/06/2014 07:29:04 PM PDT Mayoral and city council candidates should pledge to stop the plan for three additional flashing electronic billboards near the Bay Bridge Maze.

    2. Goodbye to New billboards in Oakland!

      Karen Hester
      Petition Organizer

      We Won! Council Votes to Reject Plan for new digital billboards

      On Wednesday, July 31st, the Oakland City Council in Closed Session, rejected the proposals from Foster Media and Iris Media (co-owned by Oakland Port Commissioner Michael Colbruno) for possibly 8 additional digital billboards along Highway 880. All Council members present voted to reject the billboards with Councilmember Kaplan abstaining. The proposal had been making its way through City departments for many years and was the first time since July of 2012 that the Council has voted to enforce its own billboard ordinance that was passed in 1998.

      Karen Hester, co-founder of Scenic East Bay notes, "The overwhelming majority of the council has made clear its commitment to stop blighting our City with digital billboards that are a driving distraction and drive down property values. The vote puts the nail in the coffin on additional billboards and makes clear the desire to clean up the City and our image that we have been working so hard to promote."

    3. Reached 3,000 signatures
    4. Bay Bridge Bike Path Opening/No to Billboards at Bay Bridge, Tues 9/3 6pm

      Karen Hester
      Petition Organizer

      Bay Bridge Bike Path Opening/No to Billboards
      Buy a T-shirt by Sunday, Aug 25th 10pm $12 to get our message across

      Join Scenic East Bay and East Bay Bicycle Coalition on Tuesday, Sept 3, 6pm at West Oakland BART for a ride out on to the world’s longest bike pier, the new bike path of the East Span-pizza & drinks at Hot Italian afterwards.
      Don't blight the bike path with 70 foot towering billboards! Come and find Scenic East Bay at 5:45pm at West Oakland BART. We'll have a sign for you to attach to your bike or a black DON'T BLIGHT THE BAY logo t-shirt if you order one in advance. To order [a t-shirt], send $12 via Paypal to and note size being ordered.

      We will focus media attention on our No Billboards at the Bridge campaign as there will be lots of TV cameras. This is the moment we have been waiting for to make our presence known to tell everyone that more giant digital billboards are in the works.

    5. Reached 2,500 signatures
    6. Scenic America lawsuit seeks to overturn FHWA ruling on digital billboards

      Karen Hester
      Petition Organizer

      Scenic America has just filed a lawsuit against the Federal Highway Administration to try and stop digital billboards across the country. Whether it will affect the Oakland billboards remains to be seen.

      Scenic America lawsuit seeks to overturn FHWA ruling on digital billboards | Scenic America

      January 19, 1990 FHWA memo affirming FHWA's interpretation of Federal law as implemented under individual State / Federal Agreements to prohibit commercial electronic variable message signs (CEVMS). "The prohibited CEVMS must be considered to be illegal," the memo states. July 17, 1996 FHWA memo restating agency's position that nearly all state agreements prohibit flashing, intermittent or moving lights.

    7. Reached 500 signatures
    8. Reached 250 signatures
    9. Tues, Sept 18th 5:45 during City Council Public Forum

      Karen Hester
      Petition Organizer

      Make Oakland Beautiful is organizing speakers to address the City Council during Open Forum, starting at 5:45pm on Tues, Sept 18th at City Hall Council Chambers, 14th and Broadway. To sign up to speak for 1 minute please visit or sign up on the night of before 5:30pm. Note that you will be speaking during Open Forum and you can also cede your time to one of our other speakers including Naomi Schiff from the Oakland Heritage Alliance.

      To see the amazing letter that the Oakland Heritage Alliance wrote in support plus see the graphic overlay of billboard locations that would blight the proposed 200 million dollar Gateway Park, visit Be sure and wear your LED bike light to show how distracting billboards are.

      We are also submitting a request to bring the billboard issue back to City Council by going through CED (Community for Economic Development) committee.

    10. Bring Billboard Issue Back to City Council in Sept-Let Oaklanders Decide!

      Karen Hester
      Petition Organizer

      Homeowners in West Oakland at Pacific Cannery Lofts are gathering signatures and submitting those with aerial drawings of the expected light pollution to members of the City Council, Mayor Quan and billboard deal negotiators. Three of us from http://www.facebook/oaktownbeautiful met with City chief negotiators for the Army base deal Fred Blackwell and Pat Cashman and they admitted that the billboard deal could be separated from the Army Base deal and go back to the City Council. To that end, we have asked Council member Jane Bruner to bring the matter back to the City Council in Sept for further review.

    11. Billboard Deal is way below market rate under scrutiny

      Karen Hester
      Petition Organizer

      Make Oakland Beautiful has uncovered that one digital billboard for Oakland School for the Arts brings in $386,000 in yearly revenue while the proposed 5 billboards collectively (3 of them digital) could bring the City of Oakland only $300,000 a year under the current deal. Not only would the City blight 250,000 motorists coming down off the Bay Bridge daily (and those in surrounding neighborhoods) but for a negligible sum of money. Oakland City Council has sold us out and sold us short!

    12. Speak Up, Stand Up, Show up at Next City Council Meeting on Sept 18th, 6pm

      Karen Hester
      Petition Organizer

      Be sure and sign up to make a comment in the public comment period and wear your LED blinking bike light to symbolically demonstrate how annoying light pollution with LED billboards are

    13. Oakland billboard fight dims port's hopes-SF Chronicle coverage

      Karen Hester
      Petition Organizer

      We're getting lot of new comments on the petition, especially from folks in West Oakland as well as insightful comments to Chip Johnson's column below

    14. Story about Oakland Billboards controversy in Oakland Local blog

      Karen Hester
      Petition Organizer

      please join our Facebook page at so you can keep up to date. Meeting with main City negotiator Fred Blackwell and Councilmember Jane Brunner is being scheduled for next 2 weeks. We need numbers of folks behind us to have a chance to sway their opinions.

    15. Make Oakland Beautiful Kickoff Meeting on Thurs, Aug 23rd 7-9pm at 322 45th

      Karen Hester
      Petition Organizer

      Watch for stories in Friday's edition of Oakland Local and Oakland North and come to our kickoff meeting next Thurs, Aug 23rd. Hear from experts Milo Hanke, past president of SF Beautiful and Karen Hester, founding member of Make Oakland Beautiful. Strategize how to protect our visual environment. No New Billboards in Oakland

    16. Reached 100 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • Michael Brodhead OAKLAND, CA
      • 3 days ago

      The billboards are bright enough that they affect my ability to concentrate and to see the road.

    • David Sharnoff OAKLAND, CA
      • 6 days ago

      The current bright billboards already bother me.

    • Eliza Greene OAKLAND, CA
      • 7 days ago

      This is light pollution and it distracts drivers.

      • 13 days ago

      These billboards are a blight on our community and the beauty of the Bay Area environment.

    • Andrea Sutherland OAKLAND, CA
      • about 1 month ago

      This consideration of brightly lit road signs is tragic, I really want a clear view. At a time with broadening promotion of all SF Bay, the installation would be likely to have all ask - "how could this have been allowed?" "Oh they are so ugly!!"

      After waiting for decades of waiting for the world class bridge? How could this happen to the bay view? Please stop


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