Bay Area/ San Jose/ Politics & Govt
Published on July 30, 2021
Despite opposition, dozens of trees could be removed to make way for new digital billboards in San JoseDozens of trees could be removed to make way for new SJ billboards. Photo Credit: Canva

The city of San Jose has pushed through draft plans for two new digital billboards, and the move is causing an outcry from those against the plan and billboards in general. The 1,000-square-foot signs would be built along Highway 101 near Mineta San Jose International Airport, and according to San Jose Spotlight, crews will need to cut down 43 trees to make room for them. The city says the trees would be replaced near the sites or in different locations.

“Our officials in San Jose, a progressive modern city, are actually going to cut down 43 trees to put up two billboards. It’s really beyond belief. This process was hidden, this process wasn’t out in the open,” John Miller, co-founder of No Digital Billboards in San Jose, told San Jose Spotlight. In April, the released results of a 2,000-person survey found more than 90-percent of residents don’t want any new billboards in the city.

San Jose banned new billboards from 1985 to 2018 when it changed the rules allowing it put up 22 billboards on 17 sites owned by the city. Four signs are slated for areas near the airport while the others will eventually go up around downtown. The two new digital billboards would provide the airport more than half a million dollars in new revenue each year. 

“The locations were carefully selected to limit the impact to neighboring businesses and airport operations and are facing the freeway with the airport’s fuel farm across the freeway,” airport spokesperson Demetria Machado told San Jose Spotlight

Part of the draft plan states, “The nearest residences are located over a mile away from the project site, and the signs would not be visible to residences due to intervening structures and foliage.” The electronic signs will have to be shut off from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. because of city laws already in place.

Opponents of the project are upset because they say the billboards were not a part of the airport’s 2020 master plan. “What we can say is that the city seems intent on ignoring the public and satisfying the billboard lobbyists,” Les Levitt, co-founder of No Digital Billboards in San Jose told Mercury News.

The next step for the billboard project is to undergo a full review. The city of San Jose’s Airports Commission has a public presentation scheduled for August 9th. City council members will make the final decision sometime this fall.