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Sign of the times: City Council mulls Oakland’s billboards

on November 17, 2009

Since the late 1990s, Oakland’s City Council has combated what many of its members consider an urban eyesore: the proliferation of billboards. If the council has its way, 33 billboards around the city will come down in exchange for allowing an advertising company to build signs in the city’s most sought-after location, the approach to the Bay Bridge. The Council will discuss the idea at its biweekly meeting tonight.

If a proposal from Council Member Rebecca Kaplan passes, Oakland would approve an agreement between the Clear Channel Corporation and the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) to build a new billboard on EBMUD land near the Bay Bridge in West Oakland. Clear Channel would also reconstruct an existing billboard near the Bay Bridge for a total of 2,016 square feet of advertising space on the approach to the bridge.

The city would receive a one-time $400,000 payment from Clear Channel, the world’s largest billboard advertising company, and a percentage of the annual revenue Clear Channel earns from renting the new billboards. Clear Channel would also pay to remove 33 of its existing billboards (4,116 square feet of advertising space) in Oakland neighborhoods.

In 1997, the City Council voted to prohibit the installation of new billboards within city limits. In 2002, the city voted to permit companies to negotiate the relocation of advertising signs with the city. Oakland negotiated two previous agreements with Clear Channel in 2003 and 2007, allowing Clear Channel to build new signs along the freeway in exchange for removing billboards from neighborhoods.

Also on tomorrow’s City Council agenda:

• In a special 4 p.m. session, the Council will discuss its plans to cut $19 million from the city budget by the end of the year.

• A review of Oakland’s federal stimulus fund proposals.

• The city’s $1.6 million project to repave 66th Avenue between San Leandro Street and International Boulevard near the Oakland Coliseum.

• A proposal to build a stoplight at the intersection of 64th and Foothill Boulevard in East Oakland, where 11-year-old Alana Williams was killed in a hit-and-run accident outside of Frick Elementary School in September.

Oakland North will cover tomorrow’s City Council live on its Twitter page. Look for a full story on Wednesday morning.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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