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Is Lathrop going for Vegas glitz?

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POSTED April 5, 2014 1:29 a.m.

It was supposed to carry Manteca into the advertising future. 

But by the time crews returned to Spreckels Park to take down the massive electronic billboard that had annoyed nearby residents so much that they considered filing lawsuits, the precedent had already been set.

The Family City, it seemed, was no Las Vegas.

Could Lathrop be?

When the city council meets on Monday they’ll discuss the possibility of entering into a public/private partnership to construct and maintain digital billboards on city-owned property – something that the city has already been approached about by advertising companies – and the legal ramifications that would come with it. 

According to the staff report talks about digital billboards have lingered in Lathrop since at least 2009. A developer submitted a request for proposals in October of 2011 and the matter has generated significant community interest since. It created the possibility for the sort of agreement that would require the city only to provide the land in exchange for a cut of the profit. 

“At this time there appears to be substantial community interest in digital billboards,” reads the report that was distributed to the council in advance of the April 7 council meeting. “These interests include opportunities to improve community identity, contribute to local economic development and provide additional support for community organizations and activities.”

Just recently Ripon High School – with the financial backing of PG&E – topped a revamped scoreboard with a dual-sided digital display that is visible to traffic passing by on Highway 99. It has been utilized extensively by the non-profit organization responsible for working to overhaul Stouffer Field to thank donors. 

Lathrop’s decision, however, is going to have to come sooner rather than later. 

While the partnership idea could end up equaling free money in the city’s coffers, a commercial property owner has already made the formal request to use digital elements in a pylon sign. It is an incorporation of traditional advertising and state-of-the-art technology much like the Spreckels Park sign before it was removed. 

There is, however, a catch. According to the report none of the cities surveyed that have digital billboards allow them on private property – allowing for the final say in design, content and location. 

If the council decides to move forward, it could end up providing the city with a big tool for getting information out to residents. Currently the city uses municipal water bills to circulate information to homeowners and residents and will occasionally make a push via its website to inform the public about upcoming events like street and utility shutdowns and community happenings. 

Having a freestanding digital board, however, would create another way to disseminate information – getting the word to the people who can fall between the cracks of traditional methods. 

Allowing a digital billboard will require an overhaul to Lathrop’s sign ordinance. A variety of locations could be prime candidates for advertising companies – like the intersection of Interstate 5 and the Highway 120 Bypass. 

The utilization of a rotating billboard could also be in the cards. Manteca currently has a roadside sign visible to westbound traffic as it comes into town on East Highway 120 that alternates between several different images. 


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