San Jose, California – A judge has ruled in favor of Outfront Media, a billboard conglomerate, in its lawsuit against the city of San Jose. The lawsuit alleged that the city violated its own rules by not following the proper bidding process for the construction of two digital billboards near the San Jose Mineta International Airport. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Thomas E. Kuhnle ordered San Jose to rescind its agreement with Clear Channel and comply within 150 days. The city is also required to pay Outfront Media’s legal fees.
According to court documents, the city of San Jose failed to perform its duty before granting Clear Channel the right to install the billboards at the airport. The lawsuit claimed that San Jose should have held a competitive bidding process, as required by its own billboard policy. Instead, city officials worked out the details of the agreement in a City Council meeting in February 2022.
Former chair of the San Jose Airport Commission, Dan Connolly, stated that the commission had objected to the deal twice but was ignored by city officials. Connolly expressed his concerns about the city stretching its contract with Clear Channel to allow the billboards.
Outfront Media argued that the existing advertising contract between the city and Clear Channel was not enough justification for giving Clear Channel the two billboards, as the agreement prohibited erecting billboards. Both Outfront Media and Clear Channel declined to comment on the ruling, and San Jose City Attorney Nora Frimann also declined to comment, citing pending litigation.
The judgment comes after a lengthy battle over allowing new billboards on public land in San Jose. In 2018, city officials ended a ban on such advertisements that had been in place since 1985. However, the city council later amended its rules on future billboards, requiring advertisers to take down six old billboards in December 2022.
Leslie Levitt, co-chair of No Digital Billboards in San Jose, voiced concerns about light pollution and energy costs associated with the new billboards. Levitt stated that the lawsuit has wider implications, as it highlights the city’s violation of its own rules.
It remains uncertain whether San Jose will attempt to erect the billboards south of Highway 101 again. However, Levitt believes that the city should have avoided the year-long legal battle and complied with the ruling.
Overall, the court ruling has found that San Jose violated its own rules by not following the proper procedure in awarding the advertising contract for the digital billboards. The judgment requires the city to cancel its agreement with Clear Channel and comply with the court’s orders.