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Bright idea: Electronic billboards
Latest LED technology makes signs less obtrusive
An electronic display sign may be pursued for the Bass Pro Shops/proposed outlet mall along the Highway 120 Bypass. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Cutting edge technology - and proposed city standards - means any electronic billboard going up along Manteca’s freeways would have minimal, if any, impact for neighbors and pose no safety hazards for motorists.

City staff Tuesday teamed with Ed Wasserman of Daktronics to explain the new technology as well as the proposed Manteca rules for such signs at a public workshop.

The technology that makes the new generation signs less obtrusive than the now-defunct Spreckels Park electronic billboard includes:

• Light-emitting diode (LED) technology that is not as stark as previous lights used in the Spreckels sign plus has a life span of 10 years.

•Photo cells that adjusts the sign’s light to the conditions. For example, the lights would be brighter in sunlight and then dim as it gets darker.

•The ability to slant LED lights at the right angle for motorists which makes it impossible to see the advertising if you are not in a “visual cone.” At certain angles you can still see the sign surface but it would appear to be off while those viewing it “within the visual cone” would be able to see it.

Caltrans rules that must be met include:

•Softer light levels to not distract motorists at night.

•No moving or animated, messages or video. Each electronic display must be static for the time that it is on. Essentially it is an electronic version of a traditional billboard.

•A no-nonsense Caltrans policy of giving electronic billboard operators one pass for violating state standards and then pulls the plug permanently on the second offense.

Proposed city requirements include:

•Requiring the applicants justify the requested height, lighting, size and placement on a case by case basis instead of providing set standards. The flexibility is designed as much to be business friendly as it is to make sure the city can mandate the latest technology that can keep signs as low and unobtrusive as possible.

•Requiring a 10-day review period for the public of any electronic sign proposal with notification being much wider than the legally required 300 feet. The signs would also have to go through both the planning commission and city council before it could proceed.

There are only a few places such LED billboard signs could go in Manteca including south of the Highway 120 Bypass between Union Road and a point east of Main Street, the southern quadrants of the 120 Bypass and Airport Way interchange, along the 120 Bypass near the future McKinley Avenue interchange, the southwest corner of the Highway 99 and 120 Bypass interchange, the area that is now vacant between Highway 99 and the Northgate Drive/Main Street intersection, as well as on the northwest corner of the Lathrop Road and Highway 99 interchange.

Poag & McEwen have inquired about an electronic billboard as part of their plan to bring outlet stores to the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley. Great Wolf Resort, should they proceed with a 600-room hotel and indoor water park just west of Costco also has indicated they may seek approval for such a sign.