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Rohnert Park considers bigger, taller sign

By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A proposal by a company to enlarge and operate Rohnert Park’s Highway 101 electronic advertising sign is moving in the right direction, city officials say.

The Spreckels Performing Arts Center's digital billboard on Highway 101 in Rohnert Park changes messages every six seconds.

In return for turning over control of the sign, the city would be paid $6,000 a month plus 10 percent of advertising revenues. The sign would be operated by Petaluma-based technology and media company N2 Holdings, which plans to market it to local, regional and national clients.

“They would lease the sign, replace the sign, pay us revenue and we would have no costs,” said interim City Manager John Dunn. “It looks like an exciting possibility and we’re now in the process of thoroughly investigating it.”

The existing sign, which at times has prompted complaints that it is unsightly and distracting to drivers, was installed in 2003 and paid for by the Dorothy Spreckels Performing Arts Center endowment.

An artist's rendering that compares Rohnert Park's existing electronic advertising sign to a bigger, taller sign proposed by Petaluma-based N2 Holdings. (SOURCE: N2 Holdings)

The new two-sided sign would be mounted on 59-foot-high posts. Its screen, which would be 19 feet high and 28feet, 6 inches wide, would be bigger than a set of National Football League goalposts and 211 percent larger than the existing sign.

That strikes some observers as excessive.

“I drive that part of the highway regularly and I think it’s big enough,” said former Rohnert Park mayor Tim Smith. “Bigger isn’t necessarily better, and I think bigger in this case may lead to blight.”

Holdings executives said Wednesday the sign wouldn’t take up any more space on the ground than it does now, and that it would be safer because its larger screen would make advertisements more legible, reducing distractions for drivers trying to make out what it says.

No details are fixed yet, noted Vice-Mayor Gina Belforte. She said she supported the proposal in concept because, despite concerns about its proposed size, the sign would save the city money, raise revenue and “will also drive business right into Rohnert Park.”

The council gave the proposal preliminary approval Tuesday night, sending it to the Planning Commission for review. A meeting time hasn’t been set.

“It doesn’t mean that’s where we’re going to settle,” Belforte said of the proposed size.

Approval from Caltrans also is required.

Clark Heist, N2 Holdings’ chief operating officer, said the sign would be the first in a national network of digital ad displays tailored to the needs of smaller communities.

“As a local company, we bring a great deal of sensitivity to the concerns of local business and the community at large,” he said.

Councilman Jake Mackenzie said that before the proposal returns to the council for further consideration, “Staff needs to work with the N2 people and clearly examine through the planning lens what problems might be presented by a high-profile sign.”

At the same time, he said, “You’re looking at a state-of-the-art media center and it’s promising to generate revenue.”





3 Responses to “Rohnert Park considers bigger, taller sign”

  1. Nedward says:

    That part of the 101 corridor is already hellacious due to the creeping traffic. Why not enlarge the sign to extend over the entire width of the freeway like Reno’s “Biggest Little City” sign?

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  2. akr says:

    I don’t care for the existing sign but don’t really care about it, and once again it’s hard to see how making the existing thing bigger is going to make the problem much bigger.

    This is the path RP has chosen. So be it, as far as I’m concerned. I can avert my eyes and look out for the drivers who can’t.

    Jim’s point about people slowing down even now to look at the sign may be right, although I actually think it’s the merge that’s the problem, although we’ll see what happens when they finish the fix.

    Who knows. I personally think it’s mildly idiotic but rather unimportant, but perhaps an act of financial desperation, to which I will say ok since it really won’t change RP very much at all. The home of Commerce Blvd & Enterprise Drive? We all know the founding philsophy of this town. Ayn Rand! (Some very nice city council members notwithstanding.)

    It’s even possible that larger text will cause more people to tune it out. I suppose there will be even larger distracting flashing lights, though.

    It’s going to be hard to sort out with the highway changes made right in that area at the same time – everyone will pick their favorite theory for why suddenly everything is terrible or, surprisingly, better. (If better I pick the recession or drivers choosing alternate routes to avoid slowdowns, most likely Petaluma Hill Road.)

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  3. Jim says:

    Pefect… I can see the bigger traffic stalls already.

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