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November 28, 2006 > More big, bright billboards

More big, bright billboards

by Steve Warga

You know those huge, glaring electronic billboards sprouting along freeways in the Bay Area? They practically blind any poor soul who happens to glance their way on a dark night. (Of course, grabbing your attention is precisely the intent of these massively-oversized television screens.) Well, Milpitas wants upwards of five to call its very own. And the signs can go in now, thanks to a flurry of motions, resolutions and obligatory votes to make it all proper and legal. The decisions came Tuesday night, November 21, during the regular, bi-monthly, joint city council/redevelopment agency meeting.

Without a single, dissenting vote, council cleared the way for renovation of three existing signs and installation of one or two more. Council also effectively authorized installation of up to 25 smaller, “way-finding” signs as well. According to Economic Development Manager, Diana Whitecar, the increased signage will attract more shoppers to The Great Mall and adjacent retail outlets. While this benefit may arise, a project manager representing Milpitas Auto Center, LLC spoke during Public Comments, immediately taking credit for initiating the merger of two redevelopment areas which will allow installation of the freeway signs specifically to advertise a large Toyota dealership under development along Interstate 880. Milpitas Auto Center, LLC left no doubt as to the real purpose of the signs: to sell cars, of course!

So, drivers and nearby residents should begin anticipating further intrusions from advertisers ever eager to promote their wares. These electronic billboards can be up to 60 feet wide and produce rotating “spots” (advertisements) typically running about eight seconds each. Oh, and they run 24 hours per day, seven days per week, year around. That’s somewhere in the vicinity of 1,000 optical explosions every single day and night. Milpitas will never become “mini-Vegas,” but city leaders do want the rest of the Bay Area to know they sell goods and services to all who care to stop and shop. Just don’t stare too long at those garish, giant TV screens while driving at night. Things could get dicey on the roadway if you do.

In another instance of “me too,” council discussed ways to respond to the Oakland Athletics stated intent of building a new stadium complex just off Auto Mall Parkway and Interstate 880 in Fremont. Councilmember Bob Livengood introduced the topic with an emphasis on traffic congestion concerns, among others. Council heartily endorsed recommendations for coordinating a series of meetings between Milpitas and Fremont staff. Livengood also expressed interest in meeting with A’s co-owner Lew Wolff and other senior executives. Exactly what would come from such meetings remains unclear.

One final note, a new Director of Human Resources was introduced by City Manager Charles Lawson. Carmen Valdez had been employed as acting human resources director prior to Tuesday’s announcement. She expressed gratitude for her working relationship with council and staff and promised more of the same as permanent director.

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