Council Approves Kiosks for Locations Throughout the City; Advertising Included

The Culver City Council meeting on July 8, 2024 had a short agenda but a long reaching decision; advertising, long banned in public spaces, will not be simply permitted but also supported by the city. 

The staff report was presented by Elaine Gerety Warner, the city’s Economic Development Director. It cited the kiosks being used for “public information, and other messaging from the city including advertising.” The proposed kiosks are being defined as “interactive.” 

The original request from the council to explore the idea came up in November of 2021. It was then considered by the Economic Development Subcommittee in 2023, and went before the Planning Commission in April of this year. “The Planning Commission recommended that the idea of kiosks not be pursued, “based on the unknown impacts… and quantity of the kiosks.” 

The Council proposed in June 2024 that the Zoning Code be amended to allow for kiosks. 

The ‘site specifics’ that will need to be considered give a foreshadowing of how many of these kiosks could be installed. “Near transit hubs, tourist destinations, community spaces/parks, business districts, and excluding residential areas.” 

The city staff reports noted that “Kiosks will need to be placed in areas that do not interfere with pedestrian or traffic safety.” The installation of the kiosks “connecting to the city’s fiber and electrical will require trenching, and as this is not in this year’s fiscal budget, these costs would have to be borne by a potential vendor.” 

As interactive kiosks, they may also have data-collection features. “The City would want to know how that data is collected and if it is being monetized.” Kiosks will not be permitted to use audio or video components. 

While the city is asking that there be a plan to include “local and affordable advertising for small businesses,” advertising opportunities will not be limited to local business. 

The description of kiosks as public communication stations, which has been the first definition in all of the city’s official communications, has kept advertising as a possible additional option. But the focus of the city report on how advertising would be regulated shifts the spotlight onto how these kiosks are being planned to be used. 

Council member Freddy Puza noted that he had been scolded for asking about advertising in previous conversations on the kiosks. “If we want to have a conversation about advertising, let’s have that; this has been presented as a public service, as wayfinding. This is not following the process, and there’s a lot in the shadows here.”

Vice Mayor Dan O’Brien noted the timeline of the discussion, starting in 2021, and felt that the public had already had plenty of time and opportunity to weigh in, and to be informed. 

The vote ran along expected lines, with Vice Mayor O’Brien, Council member Goran Eriksson (who attended the meeting remotely,) and Council member Albert Vera, Jr. all voting in favor. Both Mayor Yasmine Imani McMorrin and Council member Puza abstained. 

Judith Martin-Straw

Photo Courtesy Berkeleyside Nonprofit News








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