DIGITALLY SPEAKING ... 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. This week will be an exception. The City Council is scheduled to consider on Monday the latest staff proposal for raising revenues to fix outdated infrastructure — a digital billboard that would go up on a city-owned parcel along U.S. Highway 101, near the end of Colorado Avenue. If approved, the digital billboard could net the city between $700,000 and $1 million annually, according to a staff estimate. The exact amount would depend on the number and size of the ads, as well as the number of "flips" the city wishes to reserve for its own purposes. 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 centers. If the council agrees, staff will 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. The community is also expected to have a say. According to a report from the office of City Manager James Keene, staff intends to seek a "high level of community engagement" before unveiling a more detailed concept for the digital billboard. The city's partnering firm would help develop the community-engagement plan, according to the report. A more refined concept could be in place by the middle of next year, with possible implementation taking place within a year or two.
ART MEETS TECH...Artistic techies, rejoice. You'll soon be able to browse the entire Palo Alto public art collection online, on a pleasing-to-the-eye database. Public Art Manager Elise DeMarzo showed the Public Art Commission a test version of the website at an Oct. 17 meeting. It's not totally set in stone, but as it is now, on the left hand side of the site, visitors will be able to search by artwork title, artists' names and discipline (sculpture, painting, etc.). On the right hand side are two slowly scrolling columns of art "eye candy" (photos of artworks). Hover your cursor over the photo and it will pause, and text will appear providing information about the piece of art. Staff also hopes that artists will write descriptions to be posted with each art work. The database will also help staff more efficiently manage the city's art collection, keep track of maintenance, artists' contact information and more. It's part of an overall effort to revamp the city's public art and commission's web pages. "And you thought it would never happen," DeMarzo joked to the commission. The website has been a recurring item on the commission's agenda since at least 2009.