San Jose Looks to Add Digital Billboards to Cityscape

After extensive outreach, San Jose city officials on Tuesday will be looking for a green-light to find advertisers for two electronic billboards on city-owned property.

Last September, the City Council approved a policy that would allow “billboards, programmable electronic signs and signs displaying off-site commercial speech” on city property. Since then, economic development officials have been meeting with tenants and operators at places like the Convention Center, the Tech Interactive and the Museum of Art to find the ideal location for the billboards.

“These discussions allowed staff to identify aesthetic and programming standards and evaluation criteria desired by each stakeholder tenant and operator, and to address operational questions for each city-owned facility,” Economic Development Director Kim Walesh wrote in a July 15 memo.

With the council's OK on Tuesday, the city will put out a request for two separate bids. The first will be for a sign located in a spot that's already been through an environmental clearance process, while the second bid will be for a city-owned location identified by a prospective company.

Ten sites have cleared environmental review for the bid process including the McEnery Convention Center, the Hammer Theatre, the Center for Performing Arts and the Third Street Parking Garage. The winners will be offered a 10-year lease with two additional five-year term options.

San Jose currently has a number of sites that billboards could be placed at. Ten of those sites have already been cleared through an environmental review.

Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and council members Raul Peralez and Sylvia Arenas, however, want to take the initiative a step further by using it as an opportunity to rid the city of blight.

“We have an opportunity to reduce existing blighted billboards by incentivizing a take-down or replacement element for stand-alone billboards,” the councilors wrote in a memo. “We have heard from both the mayor and the community on how blighted paper billboards have been a sore issue of frustration and our extensive, compliance-driven enforcement process only adds to that frustration.”

The councilors propose that the city prioritize blighted billboards to be replaced with new digitalized ones.

The San Jose City Council meets at 1:30pm Tuesday inside the council chambers at City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St. in San Jose. Click here to read the agenda. 


  1. Yet another symptom of late stage capitalism. Public property consumed by commercialization and corporate interests. Why be shy – just go ahead, pull the band-aid, and sell City hall and lease it back from the new owner like Schwarzenegger wanted to do.

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