Electronic Billboards, Urban Greening and Single-Use Plastics

Credit: Boyloso | iStockphoto

Update: On Thursday, February 25, the San Jose City Council followed our recommendation and voted to halt all work on Phase II of the electronic billboards policy. The Council decided to discuss the proposed new initiatives, including Urban Greening and a ban on single-use plastics, at a later date. We will alert you when those issues come up for a vote at the Council.

The San Jose City Council is considering what initiatives should be prioritized over the next year. We’re urging the City Council to drop the effort to encourage electronic billboards and to prioritize both an Urban Greening initiative and a ban on single-use plastics.

No on Electronic Billboards

Several years ago, San Jose city staff began developing a city policy on electronic billboards. Phase I (pertaining to city-owned property) is completed, but Phase II (for private property) is still ongoing. We’re asking the City Council to halt all work on this policy, which would encourage new electronic signs and billboards along freeways and in the Downtown area. 

Electronic billboards contribute to light pollution and disrupt the biological cycles of plants and animals. In addition, they are a dangerous distraction for drivers, consume needless energy, and are just plain unattractive. In 2016, we opposed the use of San Mateo County land for billboards along Highways 280, 101 and 92. The same arguments against billboards apply here.

Yes on Urban Greening and Single-Use Plastics Ban

Among the various initiatives the City Council will be considering this week are an Urban Greening Implementation Plan and a ban on single-use plastic products. We’re supporting both of these proposals and asking the City to move forward on developing these initiatives.

Urban Greening means the utilization of green spaces, tree canopy, rain gardens, and bioswales to improve water quality, reduce flooding, and promote biodiversity and climate resilience. San Jose already has policies in many of its existing planning documents that encourage urban greening, but the actual implementation of these policies has been lagging behind. San Jose will be undertaking a massive street repaving program over the next few years, in accordance with bond measures recently approved by the voters; if street trees and bioswales are not included in these projects, critical opportunities to increase urban greenery will be lost. An Urban Greening Implementation Plan is needed in order to ensure that urban greening is prioritized in public works projects.

Several years ago, San Jose passed bans on plastic grocery bags and styrofoam takeout containers. The next logical step — exploring possible bans on other single-use plastic items such as drink cups and plastic utensils — has been on the “backlog” list for some time. Plastic items frequently wind up in our creeks and waterways, where they can be flushed into the Bay and ultimately into the Pacific Ocean, causing irreparable harm to wildlife and to the health of all our water bodies. We’re urging the City to begin work to explore banning single-use plastic items.

Should the City Council vote to prioritize Urban Greening and a ban on single-use plastics, City staff will begin working to develop these initiatives. We will alert you as to future opportunities to support these plans.

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