OP-ED: Oakland billboards–five on the way, more to come?

By Sierra Club Yodeler

How many huge, bright LED-illuminated electronic billboards does Oakland need (see February Yodeler, page 8)?

Currently, three billboards stand close to the Bay Bridge, west of the toll plaza, and five more are planned on the Oakland Army Base property (all along the I-80 corridor). The light pollution affects residents, drivers and wildlife.

We understand Oakland’s need for revenue, and the temptation of the offers of the billboard companys. The process of gathering input for the reuse plan for the Oakland Army Base was long and complicated, involving community stakeholders (primarily social-justice advocates and organized labor) and developers. The five approved billboards were sold to the public as a funding mechanism for youth job training.

The billboards are on a 66-year lease to Foster Media, with little oversight over revenue streams and income. Some of the advertising revenues will go to Prologis, the development corporation headed by Phil Tagami, who then is expected to allocate a certain amount each year to the job training center.

Unfortunately, the environmental community did not participate in the process. While we all agree on the importance of youth job training, we do not believe that billboards are the way to fund it. It is too late to pursue a legal challenge at the city level against the already-approved billboards, even though there is an Oakland ordinance which bans freeway billboards and Caltrans has oversight.

We are now working to prevent any more billboards from being approved by the City Planning and Zoning Department (and the City Council). Scenic East Bay, a loose coalition of local activists, is trying to organize public opposition, to let the City Council know that selling billboards is not the way for Oakland to pay for needed public services.

We have heard that 7 to 14 additional billboards are in the works, though we don’t have official confirmation or details. The Sierra Club has written a letter opposing billboards near the proposed new park at the Bay Bridge Toll Plaza, and will continue to advocate against light-polluting billboards that are harmful to wildlife and pedestrians.

What You Can Do

For more information see www.makeoaklandbeautiful.org. In particular, sign the petition there to let your elected leaders know that you oppose light-polluting billboards as a way to pay for needed public services.

Kent Lewandowski, Executive Committee, Sierra Club Northern Alameda County Group

This article is republished from the Yodeler, the newspaper of the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter.

**Cross posting from Oakland Local**

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from the Oakland Post or Oakland Local. Both news sites invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.

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