What would make Gilroy an even better place to live? It’s not billboards, especially not huge electronic ones. But the City is considering changes in our ordinance which would allow them.
The Mitigated Negative Declaration should be denied because it claims that our environment won’t be affected.
Do you have any idea how bright an electronic billboard that is 30-by-22.5 feet and as high as an eight-story building is? That is twice as big as my large living room. And did I mention that it is two-sided, allowing up to eight ads on each side, and they will change every eight seconds? Although Gilroy would be allowed some amount of space for local events, large national businesses like McDonald’s, Citibank and Verizon are primarily the ones who could afford the space. Most of the profits would go to Outfront Media who would own the sign and control the content.
These towering electronic signs are an assault on our quality of life and will damage the City’s investment in tourism. Former Executive Director of Visit Gilroy, Jane Howard, did a wonderful job promoting our area as a scenic getaway destination. The website for Visit Gilroy features images of healthy outdoor activities, beautiful locations, wineries, golf courses, hiking and farmstands. Gilroy takes pride in being a beautiful, rural area. These attention-getting billboards will change our character and make us look like an urbanized area. States that depend on tourism like Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont have banned billboards and so have a few cities. Let’s follow their lead and build on our unique rural appeal.
The very purpose of signs is to attract attention, so I find research claiming that they don’t cause distracted driving hard to believe. Constantly changing images are stressful and definitely not something we need. Comments submitted by the Sierra Club, Audubon and Lick Observatory all indicate that they are not healthy for humans as well as birds and animals. The claims that these signs will have no environmental effect are wrong!
Proponents make it seem the proposal will be advantageous to our city. But are the tradeoffs worth it? You should know that Outfront Media is now suing the City of San Jose over a dispute involving their competitor. Incurring legal fees is an acceptable cost of doing business to the billboard industry, but I doubt our city would want to spend taxpayer money that way. And once a billboard like this has been erected, the City would have to pay off Outfront Media to remove it.
The Special Planning Commission meeting was continued to Feb. 2 at 6pm to allow commissioners additional time to study the 500-page staff report. There is overwhelming public opinion against electronic billboards, but last week there were only two of us commenting against the proposal. The Planning Commission should deny the allegations of the MND and changes to our current prohibitions against billboards. If you too are opposed, send your comments to the planning commission at [email protected] or come to the meeting to let your opinion be known.
Connie Rogers is a former planning commissioner and former council member.