The short paragraph in the report from San Mateo County Manager John Maltbie was enough to catch the attention, and spark the ire, of Lennie Roberts, the Committee for Green Foothills' legislative advocate.
"Outdoor Advertising program being considered along Highways I-280 and 101" is the title of the section of Mr. Maltbie's report to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors for their March 8 meeting. It said that the county's real property department would soon be bringing the board a proposal to start an outdoor advertising program.
The first step, the report said, "is an assessment by Allvision/Outfront Media of County-owned land along the Highway 101 and Interstate 280 corridors to determine the most profitable locations for billboards."
How profitable? The proposed agreement "will provide a minimum of $7.875 million in non-tax revenue per billboard over the next 30 years," the report said.
With visions of billboards erected in places such as Edgewood Park, which abuts I-280, Ms. Roberts, a resident of Ladera, fired off a letter of protest to the supervisors.
"Highway I-280 traverses one of the region's most scenic landscapes with unparalleled views of the Crystal Springs Watershed and Santa Cruz Mountains to the west and San Francisco Bay and the East Bay to the east," she wrote, saying the Committee for Green Foothills wishes to "go on record as strongly opposed" to the whole proposal.
It appears that federal and state law also prohibit billboards along officially designated scenic highways such as I-280.
As for U.S. 101, Ms. Roberts wrote, "there is already a proliferation of billboards along this heavily traveled route. Views to the Bay and western hills are becoming obliterated, and soon may disappear entirely. The profusion of billboards along Highway 101 already creates distractions for drivers. It would be inappropriate for the County to add to these problems."
At least one of the supervisors also appeared to find the idea of erecting billboards on county land a bit disconcerting. Supervisor Dave Pine said the idea "does concern me" and asked if it could perhaps be nipped in the bud before any more money is spent on it.
But Supervisor Adrienne Tissier said she and Supervisor Carole Groom had been working on the program for several years and that it would come before the supervisors within a month.
Nicholas Calderon, the county's interim real property manager, said the whole program was started before he began his job and he is not quite sure why it has been proposed.
He also said that the county "will not be pursuing any billboards on 280."
Mr. Calderon said the county is still negotiating the contract with Allvision/Outfront Media. Once the contract is finalized, it will come to the supervisors for approval. If the contract is approved, the company would do all the research on locations for billboards, which could include county-owned land and Highway 92.
"The primary focus will probably be the 101 corridor," he said.
Land owned by the county along U.S. 101 includes the new county jail and the San Carlos Airport, Mr. Calderon said.
"The county is obviously not going to pursue anything on land that is just not legal," he said.