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Digital signage initiative clears City Council


An example of a digital billboard, currently on the McEnery Convention Center in Downtown San Jose.

In August, the San Jose City Council gave the green light for advertisers to bid on electronic billboards to be placed on public buildings downtown. Similar to the large
signs already on the SAP Center, the new signs could be placed at these locations: San Jose Convention Center,The Tech Interactive,San Jose Museum of Art, Center for the Performing Arts,and the Market/San Pedro Square,  and the City parking garages at Third Street and Second/San Carlos.

The process as described by City of San Jose Downtown Manage Blage Zelalich, involves issuing two Requests for Proposal (RFP) simultaneously – one to collect bids for outdoor advertising companies for signs to be mounted on the previously identified City-owned buildings, and one for free-standing digital signs on City-owned property. Both bids are posted on BidSync:

The issue of digital advertising has been under consideration in San Jose for many years, and over the past four years OED, Planning and other departmental staff have been working towards policies that serve a number of objectives:

  • Provide benefits to the city in terms of revenue from advertisers as well as better advertisement of City events and messages
  • Enhance commercial vibrancy in appropriate locations such as Downtown
  • Reduce clutter and blight
  • Phased approach allows testing of best practices on a limited number of City-owned sites before developing policies for signage on private sites.

Since September, 2018, staff completed multiple rounds of outreach and discussion with stakeholder tenants and operators in the City-owned facilities – Convention Center, Museum of Art, Hammer Theatre Center and the Tech Interactive, which would be sites of large-format digital signs or billboards. From these discussions, staff was able to develop aesthetic and programming standards and evaluation criteria, and to address operational questions from stakeholders.

“These boards convey information,art and excitement that contributes to  the urban vibe of downtown,” said Scott Knies, executive director of San Jose Downtown Association, which has supported years of sign-code updates.

Advertisers will need to adhere to commercial policies such as those already used by VTA in Santa Clara County. The technical requirements of the sign include a maximum size of 1,200 square feet; height not to exceed 60 feet above supporting structure; and turned off  between midnight and 6 a.m. Sensors will be able to dim and brighten light depending on atmospheric conditions.  Once the RFP process has been completed by the end of 2019, signs are expected to be built and operational during the spring and summer of 2020.

To view the presentation to City Council and the associated documents, please visit the video on CivicCenter TV.