Changes to I-680 billboards proposed
■ Nationwide sign would become LED
By Donna Beth Weilenman
Two companies will ask Benicia Planning Commission on Thursday for use permits they’ll need to modify billboards on Interstate 680.
In addition to asking for a use permit, CBS Outdoor is proposing to lease the former Nationwide electronic billboard sign that is on city-owned property, said Mark Rhoades, consultant, in a Nov. 6 report.
The former Nationwide billboard faces the interstate, but is at 4850 Park Road, he wrote. It was installed in 1999, but its active use ceased when Nationwide, an automobile auction house, closed.
CBS is proposing changing the existing reflecting billboard to the type that uses digital, light-emitting diode (LED) illumination, he wrote.
Details of the proposed contract with the city were not disclosed; however, the city is expecting to receive not only rent for the site, but a percentage of advertising sales.
The company is proposing reducing the billboard from the existing 719 square feet to 672 square feet, Rhoades wrote.
Because it is an existing illuminated electronic reader board sign with changing messages, the change to LED is not considered a change of purpose or capacity, Rhoades wrote; nor is the change expected to make the billboard brighter.
“The anticipated light illuminated from the sides of the upgraded LED billboards is less than a conventional billboard,” he wrote.
That’s because LED technology has a focused beam “and therefore an inherently more constrained viewing angle.”
In addition, the brightness of the LED display adjusts to ambient conditions that are monitored by several light sensors.
“The display, for example, is brighter in the daytime than in darkness,” Rhoades wrote.
In addition, digital billboards must operate under restrictions imposed and enforced by Caltrans, and those rules prevent light from being directed at motorists so that they become blinded or confused, or would obscure the highway’s official signage, he wrote.
Messages would change every eight seconds, which falls within the Federal Highway Administration’s limits, Rhoades wrote. In addition to advertising, the sign would carry information about community events, he wrote.
Also before the panel is a request by Clear Channel to upgrade two existing billboards at 3190 Bayshore Road and 3300 Park Road.
That company already uses the signs and plans to renew its lease with the city, but wants to transform those to use state-of-the-art digital LED technology, too, Rhoades wrote.
The city and Clear Channel also are discussing lease terms. While those details weren’t disclosed in Rhoades’s report, city officials also expect Benicia will receive both rent and a portion of advertising sales.
In addition, community activities also would be promoted on these signs, he wrote, and provisions of the use of the signs are expected to be similar to that of the Nationwide sign, including the eight-second change in displays.
If, however, changes to the two signs are made by Clear Channel during bird breeding season, those nesting in the nearby marsh area could be disturbed.
Rhoades said the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the California Fish and Game Code would require mitigation measures if even one active nest is abandoned. A biologist would survey the area, and may require the company to have a buffer between nesting birds and the sign renovations.
Cultural resources also would need to be protected if they are discovered, he wrote.
Neither sign would be enlarged, he wrote, and he doesn’t anticipate adverse environmental effects. He recommended approval to both companies’ requests.
The panel will also be asked to appoint a representative to the Waterfront Park Master Plan Community Advisory Committee.
That committee will participate in the city’s 16-month process to develop a master plan for developing the Benicia Urban Waterfront at the First Street Green and adjacent tidal marshland.
The panel will weigh in on ideas for the park, help develop alternative concept plans, and help draft the master plan itself.
The commission also will hear a report from city staff on wind energy-operated wireless equipment of iSystems Technology on 257 Essex Way, and its impact on birds.
Senior Planner Lisa Porras said since August 2011 through this month, no bird deaths have been reported.
The Planning Commission will meet at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Council Chamber of City Hall, 250 East L St.