Berkeley officials are rolling out their plans for where 22 new touch-screen information and advertising kiosks could go.
Some residents have vocally opposed the devices, a product of an Ohio advertising firm, because they display ads when people aren’t using them. Critics say that makes the kiosks, nine of which have been installed around Berkeley so far, effectively pedestrian-scale electronic billboards that don’t belong on public sidewalks.
Supporters, including some merchant groups, contend the devices are a helpful tool that encourages peoples to explore popular neighborhoods. They are equipped with local business directories, maps, transit information, Wi-Fi and an emergency button that connects to 911.
The City Council on Tuesday approved a list of proposed locations for the kiosks from the company IKE Smart City, a subsidiary of the agency Orange Barrel Media that has placed the devices in urban areas across the country.
Many of the kiosks, which roughly resemble eight-foot-tall iPads, are slated to go downtown and in the Southside neighborhood near UC Berkeley; major commercial corridors such as San Pablo Avenue and Gilman Street are in line to get them as well.
After getting pushback from residents and some merchants, city officials said last summer that they would not place the devices along Solano Avenue, the north end of Shattuck Avenue, Euclid Avenue near UC Berkeley or the busiest blocks of Fourth Street. The approved list of locations also doesn’t show any kiosks planned for the Elmwood District or along Hopkins Street.
The list was approved as part of the consent calendar at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Councilmember Sophie Hahn, a critic of the devices whose North Berkeley district will not receive any of them, was the lone member to record a no vote on the item.
“I continue to think that they are unnecessary and unsightly, and wish we didn’t have them,” Hahn said.
Other councilmembers said they support installing the devices in areas where business owners are interested in having them.
“This isn’t being forced on any commercial district,” Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani said. Merchants along Gilman Street, which is poised to receive three kiosks, were interested in the devices, she said, while those on Fourth Street weren’t, so they aren’t on the list for kiosks.
There wasn’t always unanimity from merchants — Carol Denney, who owns and lives in a building close to the intersection of San Pablo and University avenues, told the City Council on Tuesday that she and dozens of business owners opposed plans to place a kiosk there. Kesarwani responded that the city’s outreach process found “strong support” for the devices among the area’s businesses.
“We are listening, and providing these where they are wanted,” Kesarwani said.
The City Council approved a franchise agreement with IKE Smart City that allows the firm to install up to 31 of its devices on public sidewalks.
Berkeley doesn’t pay anything to install or maintain the kiosks, and the city receives a cut of the advertising revenue they generate — estimated at about $27,000 per device, or roughly $380,000 per year if all of them are installed. City officials did not lay out a timeline for when the kiosks might be installed.