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. **
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