New electronic billboards to pop up in San Jose

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Big city lights will soon be coming to one South Bay town. (KGO-TV)

Big city lights will soon be coming to San Jose after a decades-old ban on electronic billboards was lifted as a way to generate more revenue.

For more than 30 years, new billboards had been banned on city-owned property across San Jose.

Things might be looking brighter after the city council voted Tuesday to lift the ban - allowing for commercial signage.

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"We've been talking about it for years and we were looking for ways to make some money for the city," said councilman Johnny Khamis.

Khamis is in favor of the electronic advertising that will pop up in downtown San Jose as well as near the airport. The downtown sites are expected to generate $200,000 in revenue each year.

"We did numerous community meetings, we did a lot of outreach, and we decided on a small rollout," he said.

The ordinance consists of two parts: The first phase allows new billboards on 17 city-owned sites, like outside the convention center.

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Phase two allows them on privately-owned parcels.

Councilman Lan Diep supports adding new billboards but voted against the entire proposal because of phase two. "Once we allow it on private property there is no legal mechanism through which we can charge revenue sharing process on private parcels," Diep said. "In essence, it makes it more competitive and it makes it more difficult for the city to get the ad revenue."

But supporters of the plan say there will be plenty of time in between to make changes as long as the ball is rolling.

"It's either wait two years or wait four years and I prefer to work closer to the speed of business than the speed of government," Khamis said.

The new billboards won't go up right away. A bidding process will start to select companies. The earliest we could start seeing the billboard go up is next year.
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