Plans for adding potentially revenue bolstering electronic signs along Highway 101 in Burlingame have been put on hold until the city can guarantee they can be located in commercial rather than residential areas, while other councilmembers are simply opposed to them.
The signs, which city officials said could bring in anywhere from $100,000-$200,000, would only be allowed in a small sliver of land between Highway 101 and Burlingame Lagoon, per Caltrans requirements, somewhat exposed in a residential area. Previously, officials were more in support of the signs when it was thought the media signs would be able to be placed in more commercial areas since the signs could help promote community events and allow for reduced-cost advertising.
“My concern is they’re directly across the street from neighbors where it is allowed,” said Councilman Ricardo Ortiz. “Initially, I thought if it’s north of Broadway, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. Until we get clarification they’re allowed north of Broadway, I’m not going to look at it.”
The vote was 3-1 against the signs, with concerns expressed ranging from safety and distractions to being against the signs on principle. Mayor Michael Brownrigg was the only member in favor of moving forward with plans for installation. Councilman Jerry Deal had to leave the meeting early because of an emergency and, therefore, didn’t vote.
“The more obvious area, industrial 101, is apparently off limits, so the only area that’s OK is by the lagoon,” Brownrigg said. “It’s a significant source of revenue. We have very significant capital needs. … Where Caltrans makes it possible is closer to the residential area. I think this is an idea I’m going to continue to investigate.”
Also, because of the proximity to the tidally influenced waters, any proposal for a sign structure would require approval by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the State Department of Fish and Game and possibly the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Vice Mayor Terry Nagel noted that not only would the city have to work with these organizations, but the city would probably have to hire consultants about which land could be used, do public polling and hire attorneys for contracts.
“I’m not a big fan of electronic signs,” said Vice Mayor Terry Nagel. “I did talk to a lot of people who think it’s really a bad idea, when you consider the amount of revenue you might gain for it, it would be offset by staff time and expenses to even get one sign in place. It just doesn’t add up to being worth it.”
This concluded a three-month process to evaluate the impacts of installing electronic signs in the city. For the past several years, staff has been approached by purveyors of electronic media signs seeking city approval for installation along the freeway. Currently, the city has received at least one digital sign proposal — for a privately owned site — and two inquiries from businesses interested in finding a location, according to a staff report.
Other nearby cities have considered such signs, including Belmont, Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Millbrae. Cities that currently have electronic media signs include East Palo Alto and San Carlos.
In other business, the city passed an ordinance that expands its list of city facilities where smoking is prohibited, specifically concentrating on parks and related areas. City owned or operated athletic fields and within 25 feet of city-owned parking lots, Bayfront Park or Mills Creek Canyon Park were added to the list of prohibited smoking areas. The council agreed it needed more information on electronic cigarettes before deciding on any restrictions on them, while letting San Mateo County come up with its own ordinance on smoking regulations in multi-family buildings.
The Recreation Center’s master design plan for a new $32 million to $35 million building and parking structure was also approved.
The City Council next meets at the end of August.
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