A monthly update from the Richmond Chamber Government Relations Committee. Written by Michelle Blackwell, Chair.
At the March Government Relations Committee meeting we were fortunate to have two guests join us to talk about the new sign ordinance that the City is crafting. Kieron Slaughter from the City of Richmond and Ryan Brooks from CBS Outdoor. Amit Patel from the Hilltop Business Community and Becky Ross from the Convention and Visitors Bureau were also on hand to lend their expertise.
So, here is the scoop – The City’s sign ordinance does not have guidelines for LED signs. The sign at Pacific East Mall squeaked through. There have been two applications for new LED signs. CBS Outdoor has applied for a sign near 580 at the Bayview Overpass. Foster Media has applied for one at Hilltop Mall. This prompted the City to rectify their lack of guidelines. City Council has instructed the planning department to craft the new ordinance in short order. They expect to take this to the planning commission on April 17th and follow up with the Council after that.
Currently, the City is looking at limiting these signs to areas like Hilltop Mall and Plaza, the Parkway, the Target/Macdonald Shopping Center, and the Pacific East Mall. Many of you may have already seen LED signs at school sites but they are not under the City’s jurisdiction.
Ryan Brooks of CBS Outdoor explained that the signs being built today dim or brighten depending on exterior light. There are 400 million signs nationwide and they are for more than just advertising. In fact they ran 700 Amber Alerts and helped the FBI catch 45 of their most wanted criminals in 2013. Local businesses make up 70% of the advertisers on LED signs.
LED signs typically replace the old static billboards and because they are electronic do not require the yards of vinyl that is typically used in a regular billboard. Critics are concerned about distracted drivers but according to Federal Highway Department Studies the signs are not a problem and they do not distract notably more than a static billboard.
CBS Outdoor also pointed out that they can produce revenue for the City and pointed to a soccer field in Berkeley and an arts program in Oakland that benefited from their LED sign revenue.
Hilltop has been working with the City for some time to update the sign that advertises businesses off of I80. Apparently, it is way out of date and is overshadowed by Pinole’s signs. Rumor has it that Pinole is installing an LED sign soon and the business community is concerned that Hilltop will lose more business and jobs.
The committee voted to ask the Chamber Board to send a letter of support to the City asking them to allow LED signs.