Digital Billboards in Newark Approved by Council

Two digital billboards and one pylon sign could be fully constructed in Newark as early as December.

Newark will be home to two digital billboards and a new auto mall sign as a result of a vote made Thursday night.

City Council members unanimously approved a proposal for Clear Channel, Inc. to build two LED billboards and one auto mall identification pylon sign along freeways that pass through the city.

But the five-member council’s support came after four residents spoke against the project during a public hearing, calling the digital billboards distracting.

Resident Suzanne Flusche said while she is supportive of signs that inform her when a child has been abducted, she’d prefer the city vote against billboards that showcase advertisements.

“We don’t need it. It’s spam,” Flusche said. “It’s distracting and people are going to get hurt.”

Flusche added, “I don’t want to have my daughters be distracted as they’re learning to drive… Now the city of Newark will put texts on the road that are meant to grab my daughters’ attention.”

Bernard Flusche also said the signs could sidetrack someone while driving, sharing how he’s almost gotten into accidents after being distracted by billboards.

“Advertisements are meant to grab your attention,” Bernard Flusche said.

But city officials said the billboards would not be overly hazardous and the displays are not flashing signs.

Community Development Director Terrence Grindall added the signs would be self-monitored, display advertisements for eight seconds and have limited brightness to avoid distractions for commuters. An example of a similar sign is the digital billboard located on the Union City-Hayward border near Union Landing.

The two projected billboards are set to be located along freeways that pass through Newark. One would be built at 7015 Gateway Blvd., near Highway 84, and another would go on 39491 Mowry School Road, along Interstate 880.

The two digital LED billboards are proposed to be 48 feet wide and 14 feet high, which is the standard size of billboards, according to Bruce Qualls, vice president of real estate for Clear Channel.

The Gateway boulevard sign would be constructed on a 51-foot sign and the Gateway Boulevard sign would be built on a 71-foot column. The proposed pylon sign is planned to be 85 feet tall and 29 feet wide with two 12-by-24-foot full-color LED displays.

The pylon sign would be the auto mall identification sign. Fremont Ford currently owns the only sign in the auto mall area. The new one would advertise each of the car dealerships and the commercial region would be branded as a part of the Newark Auto Mall, city officials said.

President Steve Hallock expressed his support for the digital signs during Thursday’s meeting, noting the current sign near Newark’s auto mall was built in 1988 and that he has no intention of replacing it when it ceases to function because it is not cost efficient.

“It uses an unbelievable amount of energy,” said Hallock, who said he conducts maintenance twice a year and that it costs $10,000 just fix the bulbs. “It’s harmful to our environment. We really do need a new auto mall [sign].

Resident Rob Sorensen said while he did not favor the signs when the idea first surfaced two years ago, he believes it could benefit the city and bring attention to the businesses in town. He added he feels the city has realized they’re competing with neighboring cities and that “the signs make sense.”

“The new technology is there. If we don’t do it somebody else is going to do it,” Sorensen said. “Newark competes with the [Fremont] Auto Mall area and if you don’t position yourself early and don’t capture the wave of technology and what’s available, you might not get as good a deal down the road. I think it’s proactive to approve the signs.”

The city’s vote approved a 25-year contract between the city of Newark and Clear Channel. That agreement states that Clear Channel will give $120,000 to the city each year. The payments will increase by 3 percent every year after the fifth year. There will also be an initial payment of $30,000 and 5 percent of the advertisement time would be reserved for city-sponsored events.

City Council members said there is a need to promote businesses in town in order to retain them, with Mayor Al Nagy stating that Newark is in a fight and that the city understands businesses provide funds that provide services to residents.

“We have to do everything we can [to be business friendly],” Nagy said. “Do I like electronic signs? Not necessarily, but out of all the signs out there…these are the least offensive.

Qualls said Clear Channel hopes to complete construction of all the signs by December.

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