Are we daft?
Perhaps it is an inferiority complex?
Or maybe we have delusions of grandeur?
Whatever it’s is we need to get off the bandwagon of equating an electronic billboard hawking everything from the McDonald’s dollar menu to beer with the word “Manteca” and the city logo attached to the base as either being a possible source of civic pride or a grand entry feature to the city.
It’s a billboard, folks.
Lady Bird Johnson was hailed as a saint in some quarters for her efforts to rid the American landscape of the visual pollution while her husband was in the White House. Just like putting lipstick on a pig, cutting edge tech doesn’t cover up the fact it’s a billboard.
How impressive is having Manteca’s name and logo attached to the base of a sign pushing Viagra with thousands of LED lights? Does it give you a warm and fuzzy feeling about The Family City?
And to be clear the sign the powers that be that want to put Manteca on the map looks like a number of other such indistinguishable signs marring the California landscape including Rohnert Park and Benicia.
There was a time when you could tell you were in Manteca by the quadruple 15-story landmark that were the Spreckels Sugar silos looming high above the skyline virtually on top of the Highway 99 and 120 Bypass interchange. Not only did that scream “Manteca” to most travelers but it went most billboards one better by bringing scratch and sniff technology that some perfume companies use in fashion magazines to a city’s de facto entrance feature. Thanks to the sugar beet pulp given to cows at the adjoining Moffat Feed Lot your nose could literally tell you that you were passing through Manteca during the dark of night even in dense fog down to zero visibility.
The bizarre thing is we already have two sizable “billboards” along the freeways without the city getting into another bad billboard deal they can’t manage. That is in reference to billboards in a city park that Manteca can’t get rid of even though they have the legal right to do so that we’ll touch on a bit later.
But first let’s talk about what are definitely gigantic entrance features that not only are getting short shrift but are much more impressive than a cookie cutter electronic billboard with “Manteca” slapped on the base.
There is no city in the Northern San Joaquin Valley as well as farther south, north, east, and west that has an impressive feature looming along the freeway to announce where you are as Manteca does.
Former Manteca Councilman Richard Silverman nailed it on the head three years ago when he described the 500-room Great Wolf Lodge and indoor water park as a $180 million billboard advertising Manteca.
Let’s see an electronic sign match Great Wolf as an entrance feature for the city let alone a solid revenue stream.
Better yet, Great Wolf is marketing the local resort now with an opening date of Oct. 28 as the “San Francisco/Manteca Great Wolf”. Add to that a multi-million advertising budget that Great Wolf plans to roll out. Not only can the city not afford to buy that kind or advertising but they aren’t being plummeted by the Bay Area media and officials for the city’s name being attached to San Francisco like when Stockton Metro Airport tried to add “San Francisco” to its name.
Folks thought that was bush league and misleading to tie Stockton in a cosmopolitan city such as San Francisco that has worldwide recognition and is one of the top tourism destinations on the planet.
What more can we ask for?
Well, there is Bass Pro Shops right on top of the 120 Bypass that already has elevated Manteca’s status with more than 2.2 million annual store guests that come from a 100-mile radius.
The 84,000 vehicles traveling the 120 Bypass each day can’t miss either one while an electronic billboard would be mere background static.
If you think they aren’t entrance features take a look at San Jose and see if you can even find their attempts at such endeavors along their freeways or even tell where the largest city in the Bay Area begins and adjoining cities end.
Then look at San Francisco. They don’t need a standalone electronic billboard sign with the city’s name on the base as an entrance feature to serve a source of community pride. They’ve got the Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge and the skyline punctured by the Transamerica “pyramid” building.
Look around us. Tracy, Stockton, Modesto, Lathrop, to name a few, do not have a structure as imposing or in the line of sight of freeway travelers as Manteca does with Great Wolf. Ripon deserves points for its massive water tower that a developer put in on his dime to serve as a massive calling card for the Almond Capital of the World for travelers along Highway 99.
And why would Manteca want to ruin the fact there are no billboards cluttering the 120 Bypass as it passes through the city for a handful of what will amount to chump change?
Besides, before they even think about getting in bed with another outdoor advertising firm for a few dollars they should clean up the mess they created in the past by allowing a firm to browbeat the city with threats of a lawsuit. This was done to prevent the city from executing a clause in their contract to have four billboards removed that are on city park land along Moffat Boulevard within the Tidewater Bikeway.
City Attorney John Brinton can give the current city leadership an update on how effectively this city monitors contracts with billboard companies if the current City Council has more backbone than various predecessor councils.
The billboards were part of a 1997 deal that allowed the city to secure 3.4 miles of Tidewater right of way from Southern Pacific Railroad. The lease for the land where the billboards stand was transferred to the city. The first time the city tried to exercise language in the contract to terminate the lease and have the billboards removed was on March 19, 2001. The city never followed through. Then on April 16, 2007 the City Council reaffirmed its earlier decision to terminate the lease. That notice went to CBS Outdoor on May 1, 2007.
CBS refused and said they’d play legal hardball and fight the city using a federal law intended to prevent local governments from forcing the removal of billboards on private property nicely ignoring the fact they are actually on city property. It also glossed over the fact the city was given legal rights to terminate the use of their land for billboards in the legally binding contract CBS agreed to and signed.
Manteca’s previous leadership failed to act in the best interest of its citizens which is not to have billboards hawking beer and such in a city park just because a media conglomerate threatened to sue the city half way to the moon.
The city back in 2012 was receiving a paltry $2,070 a year in lease payments for the land where the billboards sit. That is a significant bargain given at the time many home builders were paying Manteca property owners for temporary signs one-sixth the size of a billboard $100 a month to place them on their property.
It would be nice if Manteca cleaned up Moffat Boulevard and got rid of the billboard blight that has been allowed to stand 13 years after a lawful request was made to have them removed because the city was intimidated by corporate thugs.
If they can’t do that, one can only wonder exactly what kind of sweetheart deal they’d be willing to give an advertising company today to bring high tech blight to the 120 Bypass.