When Palo Alto leaders talk about building a "leading digital city," they're usually talking about open data and high-speed Internet, not flashy billboards. Monday night will be an exception.
The City Council is scheduled to consider on Monday the latest staff proposal for raising revenues to upgrade the city's infrastructure -- a digital billboard that would go up on a city-owned parcel along U.S. Highway 101, next to the Loma Verde substation near the end of Colorado Avenue. Such a billboard would be used to bring advertising dollars, promote city-sponsored events and promote local merchants, according to a report from the office of City Manager James Keene.
The billboard, also known as a "digital message center," could net the city between $700,000 and $1 million annually, according to a staff estimate. But money is just one factor. On Monday, the council will balance the potential payoff and the visual impact of having a digital billboard along the highway.
City officials have already consulted numerous advertisers who confirmed local suspicions that the site is "indeed a very desirable location and could generate premium advertising revenues" and would net about 325,000 daily views. Staff notes that other cities, including East Palo Alto, San Jose and Sacramento, either already have or are in the midst of setting up similar digital message center.
If the council agrees, staff would develop a request for proposals and ultimately select a firm that would shepherd the billboard through the permitting process and help the city land the advertising clientele. Staff would then return with more detailed plans, including refined financial estimates.
According to the staff report, given the intended "high level of community engagement," a more detailed concept for the digital billboard could be in place by the middle of next year. Implementation would occur within a year or two.