SAN ANTONIO — City council members are debating a proposal that would reduce the number of billboards lining San Antonio highways, while allowing advertisers to construct more electronic signs.
The measure would allow advertisers to erect one digital billboard for every four static billboards they remove. No agency could erect more than eight electronic billboards in a year.
City staffers say the idea could eliminate "clutter" in San Antonio's skies.
The proposal would bar electronic billboards in certain corridors, including along U.S. Highway 281 near downtown and along Interstate 10 from the outer loop to Boerne Stage Road.
The ordinance applies only to "off-premises" signs that advertise a business on another property. A McDonald's franchisee, for example, could still erect golden arches on a post beside its restaurant.
San Antonio already limits billboard construction. Advertisers can only 'relocate' billboards if they agree to remove more signage elsewhere.
The city code does not currently allow for new electronic billboard construction.
Some councilmembers questioned whether electronic billboards are more distracting to drivers than static billboards.
"I just think they're inherently dangerous," District 9 representative John Courage said, calling for research that might identify roads already too dangerous to host electronic signage.
Courage noted that he'd vote against the proposal, regardless. Other members echoed traffic safety concerns, though they supported the swap.
Michael Shannon, the city's development services director, said "it's debatable" whether electronic signs are more dangerous than signs that do not rotate advertisements.
Clear Channel Outdoor, which owns most of San Antonio's billboards, endorsed the idea during a council committee meeting Monday. Such agencies can make more money off digital billboards since they rotate advertisements among clients.
The full council could consider the proposal in June, Shannon added.