Digital billboards will soon grace Stockton's skyline, moving the city into the modern media age and likely bringing some extra cash to the city.
The City Council on Tuesday approved in a 7-0 vote to rewrite Stockton's sign ordinance, allowing private companies eventually to put up no more than six two-sided billboards, creating a total of 12 sign faces.
"The first time somebody talked about digital billboards, I thought of flashing lights and thought 'No way,' " Mayor Ann Johnston said in Tuesday's council meeting. "To me, that is real visual blight."
Johnston said she's changed her mind learning about what was actually in store.
The digital billboards in Stockton won't blink or flash, with images changing in eight-second turns, said Greg Meissner, a city staffer.
The city will begin by seeking bids from a company to put up and maintain the first two billboards. With the kinks worked out, the city will expand the number.
The change began about 18 months ago when three billboard companies approached the city, interested in expanding their digital business into Stockton.
City officials listened to their pitches and studied how other cities, such as Sacramento, handle it.
The city's old sign ordinance didn't allow for digital signs. Under the city's approved plans, each new digital billboard will replace an existing sign in Stockton.
It's also expected to bring in money for the city. How much has yet to be determined.
Restrictions of the revised billboard ordinance include:
-- Allowing no more than six double-sided signs standing on industrial- and commercially-zoned property.
-- Putting the billboards on city-owned or controlled property within 660 feet of Interstate 5, Highway 99 or the Crosstown Freeway.
-- Capping the height of each sign at 35 feet above the freeway surface.
-- Separating the digital signs from each other by 5,000 feet.
-- Replacing the current signs with digital billboards to keep the total number under the city's cap of 306.
The three companies so far to express interest in digitizing their Stockton billboards are: Primero Outdoor Media, Clear Channel Outdoor and CBS Outdoor.
The City Council in January held a formal study session, and in March the Stockton Planning Commission took it up with nobody from the public speaking in opposition to adding digital billboards to Stockton's skyline.
Citing a Federal Highway Administration study, Stockton officials said that digital billboards cause no statistically noticeable risk to drivers.
For every square foot of digital billboards put up, nine square feet must be removed, shrinking the amount of signs throughout the city.
The City Council also voted its support of opening up the process for billboard companies to submit bids to install the signs. The council in March could be asked to give the final approval for the first two signs of a pilot program.
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