Monday, December 28, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Recently we brought you a story from the District of Columbia about determined residents of the Shaw neighborhood targetting illegal billboards that were a nuisance to the community. We're now pleased to pass along news that all of the offending signs have been removed! Congratulations to the dedicated citizens who successfully brought the issue to the attention of city hall and to city leaders for finally enforcing the sign ordinance!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
- Park Ridge (NW Chicagoland) citizens object to proposed billboards near residential areas (Journal Online)
- LA council vote stops billboards from converting to digital (KPCC Public Radio)
- Rapid City nixes digital billboard conversion on Mount Rushmore Road (Rapid City Journal)
- New Jersey residents oppose proposed cell tower adjacent to scenic byway and preserved farmland (myCentralJersey.com)
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
To follow up on yesterday's post from earlier this week on the energy use of billboards, it also is important to note the negative impact billboards have upon the Night Sky. Billboards generally are lit in an upwards, wasteful manner that unnecessarily spill light into the night sky and neighboring properties. To find out more about outdoor lighting and the importance of preserving the wonders of the Night Sky, visit our friends at the International Dark-Sky Association.
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday provided good news to scenic advocates across the country as it refused to hear an appeal by a billboard company challenging Los Angeles' prohibition of billboards in 2002. The closely watched case addressed important free speech issues and the billboard company was assisted by noted consitutional scholar Laurance Tribe.
The federal district court judge agreed with Metro Lights claim that LA violated its free speech rights because the city itself generating revenue from a sanctioned "street furniture" billboard program on public property. However, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that ruling and yesterday's decision by the Supreme Court is another important victory for the right of communities to control outdoor advertising. While scenic advocates generally disagree with street furniture ads on public property, the decision of a city to engage in the practice should not prohibit it from being able to control visual clutter by banning billboards elsewhere.
Scenic America notes that Metro Lights (now called FUEL) has been a litigious thorn in the side of large cities across the nation. It has placed thousands of illegal signs in Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere, and its threat of legal action against any removal of its illegal signs has had the intended effect of delaying municipal action.
Yesterday's Supreme Court decision should now encourage these cities to restore the visual character of their communities by reigning in rouge advertising companies like Metro Lights. And as the LA-based Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight notes, a court ordered disgorgement of the huge profits Metro Lights/ FUEL made in LA with these illegal signs would send a strong message.
Monday, December 14, 2009
The lighting for standard billboards, including the ones depicted above, typically use four lamps that generate about 1,600 watts of energy use per sign on average. With an estimated 500,000 billboard structures nationwide, the cumulative energy consumption of the outdoor advertising sector is certainly an eye-popping figure and worthy of analysis.
AmerenUE's environmentally-unfriendly 24/7 billboard campaign (ironically being run during the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference) not only is polluting the atmosphere unnecessarily, it is also disturbing the night sky and, if industry practice holds true, will result in thousands of square feet of vinyl wrap eventually tossed into local landfills.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Clear Channel worked in secret with the outgoing mayor on the proposal for several years, and neighborhood groups and council members were naturally concerned about the proposal unveiled to the public at the end of the mayor's term. The city's Development Review Commission and Planning and Visioning Commission both had previously recommended that the council delay action on the proposal so that a more thorough review could be conducted. The Saint Petersburg Council of Neighborhood Associations had expressed the common sense argument that a rush to approve digital billboards ahead of the upcoming release of the FHWA safety study on digitals was premature.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
The Green Inc. blog at The New York Times carries an interesting post about how a federal judge has halted a large-scale wind energy project on the basis that it fails to protect an endangered species. The judge found that the endangered Indiana Bat would be harmed by the project, which is located on top of a mountain ridgeline, and that the company failed to take the proper steps to preserve the species required under the Endangered Species Act.
As the judge wisely commented, "The development of wind energy can and should be encouraged, but wind turbines must be good neighbors."
For more information on scenic issues involving wind energy projects, visit Scenic America's Wind Energy Resource Page.
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Local zoning officals and scenic advocates need to be aware of an important rule change by the FCC requiring municipalities to act on cell tower permit applications within 90 or 150 days.
For more information on the regulation of cell towers, visit Scenic America's resource page on telecommunications towers.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Illegal Signs.CA has a good synopsis of what the sweeping victory means for Toronto's landscape. The new by-law limits digital technology and will make it very difficult for new billboards to be erected. The inclusion of heavy fines should also force the removal of hundreds of illegal signs in the city-- previously, operators of these signs would simply ignore the law because of weak penalties and lack of enforcement. The tax is expected to raise $10.4 million annually, and the revenue will help the city enforce the new by-law. The expectation is that the number of billboards in Toronto will be halved over the next twenty years.
Big Billboard will seek to overturn the Council's action, of course, but the supporters of a beautiful Toronto are ready for the challenge.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
FOX 13 provides an excellent news piece on the situation in Saint Petersburg, where the out-going mayor supports a proposal by Big Billboard to erect 10 digital billboards in exchange for the removal of static billboards elsewhere in the city. But City Council and neighborhood groups are wary of the proposed deal, noting that the results of the long-awaited FHWA safety study on digitals are just months away.
(FOX 13: myfoxtampabay.com)
For more, visit Scenic Florida affiliates Scenic Pinellas and Scenic St. Petersburg.
Friday, December 4, 2009
The collaborative CSS process results in better transportation projects than the "our way or the highway" decision-making method of the past. CSS promotes liviable communities and sustainable transportation and allows for increased preservation of scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental resources.
For more on CSS, visit Scenic America's CSS resource page and www.contextsensitivesolutions.org.
But this excellent update from spacing toronto soundly counters an argument that one councilor made that digital signs are simply "modernization." As the blog post makes clear, light trespass for affected homeowners is more nightmarish than anything else. The post also points us to this disturbing open letter from an unfortunate soul subjected to "modernization" and a must-read 2008 LA Weekly article about how LA council members regret approving digital billboards after having had no idea what they were unleashing upon the landscape.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Tribune passes along unusual testimony from the industry on whether digital billboards are like the moon: "If you never had any complaints about moonlight then you shouldn't have a problem with digital billboards." A more reasonable assessment of the brightness of these signs -- which an industry funded study found are ten times brighter than the surrounding area and three times brighter than traditional billboards -- comes from promotional material of a manufacturer:
"Nothing's as eye-catching as an electronic LED display. The brightly-lit text and graphics can be seen from hundreds of feet away, drawing the attention of everyone within view."
Indeed, as these unfortunate folks who happen to live in the vicinity of a digital sign in Saint Louis know, Tampa Bay residents have reason to be concerned about light trespass and distraction. Visit Scenic America's resource page on digital billboards for more on the serious safety and visual implications of these new signs.
Update: Here is another disturbing news video about how brightly-lit digital billboards are negatively affecting residents, this time in Detroit.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Lamar is seeking to erect billboards on the property as PennDOT is seeking to condemn a significant amount of billboards within the public right-of-way elsewhere in the area. But it is unclear whether it plans to raze the church building itself; preservationists are hoping to convince Lamar to allow them to covert the church into a museum on American immigration -- the parish served a Croatian population.
It is a large loss for established communities when churches close, and previous efforts by preservationists to buy the property themselves have failed. To think that a historic church could be razed for the purposes of commercial advertising is almost unimaginable.
UPDATE: Preservationists unveiled plans for the museum on Friday and will be meeting with Lamar next week. Lamar, which has not yet closed the purchase with the Diocese of Pittsburgh, hopes to erect 5 billboards on the property. It's unclear if the former church property needs to be re-zoned to accomodate the billboards.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
After much delay, Toronto City Council is finally set to take up final debate on the signs by-law and billboard tax that community groups have been working on for several years. Check out Beautiful City Toronto and Illegal Signs.CA for more on the creativity that Toronto citizens are bringing to the effort to reclaim the city's visual character from Big Billboard.
UPDATE: Yesterday's debate was ended to take up an issue concerning youth hockey; this is Canada after all. Follow the billboard debate on twitter at www.twitter.com/illegalsigns
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
In fact, using the billboard industry's argument that the ban would result in measurable economic impacts, the move reduced the unemployment rate almost two full percentage points. Perhaps the industry wants to now argue that the way to avoid a global recession is to ban billboards?
Of course, it would be wrong to place Sao Paulo's good economic health on the billboard ban, but placing strict limits on visual pollution does improve quality of life. It is no wonder then that the ban is extremely popular with its citizens and that Buenos Aires and other cities across the globe are seeking to follow Sao Paulo's lead.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Clear Channel, which has over 800 billboards in the city, is likely to see its tax bill jump from just over $100,000 last year to over $1.1 million this year under the new method. Lamar Advertising's bill would increase from $82,000 to $320,000- a nearly 300% increase.
Clear Channel has filed suit to challenge Milwaukee's new assessment method, but the city believes a recent Wisconsin Supreme Court decision involving a similar case in the city of Madison gives the city an ample basis to use the income approach.
Expect more cities to follow the lead of Milwaukee by seeking increased revenues from an industry that would not exist without public investment in roads.
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Scenic Byways grants fund a wide array of projects that enhance the byway experience for visitors.
Examples of projects that received funding for scenic preservation and enhancement include viewshed protection for North Carolina's Nantahala byway, the construction of a scenic landscape and wildlife observation deck for Wisconsin's Alma byway, a scenic pullout for South Carolina's Cherokee Foothills byway, and the development of a resource protection plan for Arizona's Navajo Nation byway.
Other grants helped support the development of marketing and interpretive materials, the construction of pedestrian and bicycle facilities, historic preservation projects, and safety improvements.
For the official FHWA press release and list of grants, click here. And don't forget to seek out America's Scenic Byways in your future travels!
San Francisco Beautiful led the fight to defeat the effort to lift a ban on new billboards so that the historic Market Street Street could be blanketed with intensive digital billboard advertising. The defeat of the proposition reaffirmed the strong civic pride and sense of place that make San Francisco a world class city. San Francisco Beautiful President Milo Hanke remarked, "San Francisco voters removed all doubt - they will tolerate no new billboards."
San Francisco voters blocked previous measures that would allow new billboard measures in 2002 and 2007.
The defeat of Prop D was not the only good news for scenic advocates on election day: city voters also passed Proposition E, which prohibits additional advertising on city property.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Click here to read the official release.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Scenic America was an influential organization in establishing the CSS movement to have engineers and planners rethink design. By thinking beyond the pavement and an almost exclusive focus on design speed, CSS incorporates flexibility and greater stakeholder involvement in order to acheive designs that are in harmony with the aesthetic, community and natural environment.
Now that the movement has matured, research has been able to to confirm that utilizing CSS acheives better results and increased lasting value for communities. The TRB report presents helpful guidelines for agencies for quantifying the benefits of applying CSS to transportation projects and is helpful for community advocates.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
The problems found by the Federal Highway Administration include numerous billboards located in areas that are illegal under federal law, and dozens, if not not hundreds, that appear to have been erected without a permit of any kind at all.
State officials believe that it may cost as much as $2.5 million to establish a proper billboard inventory and sort through the problems with lax enforcement of the law. But as the article notes, at a paltry initial permit fee of just $100 for each billboard, the billboard industry itself isn't going to pay for sorting out the mess.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Presenter Dr. John Lee of the University of Wisconsin noted that billboards can be a cause of motorist distraction outside of vehicles. Dr. Lee also remarked that while the issue of digital billboard distraction is an active topic of FHWA research, prior studies on the issue have found that they can be a source of distraction.
In fact, the recently completed review of prior studies conducted for AASHTO found:
"...of those research studies that have addressed driver distraction and roadside billboards, nearly every empirical study undertaken since 1995, including that by Lee et al., and sponsored by the outdoor advertising industry, have demonstrated that there is an adverse relationship between distraction and digital billboards."
The bottom line is that a growing and sound body of scientific evidence has confirmed the intuitive notion that digital billboards -- essentially giant televisions on a stick that change ad copy as much as every six seconds -- pose an unnecessary safety risk.
State and local government officials need to protect the public safety and either prohibit or strongly restrict digital signs.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
If you'd like to watch part or all of the webcast, you can do so here.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Filmed over the course of six years at some of nature's most spectacular locales, from Arcadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Flordia to the Gates of the Artic in Alaska - The National Parks: America's Best Idea is nonetheless the story of people: people from every conceivable background... who were willing to save some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
As the article notes, New York has had a rather restrictive ordinance over the years, but an unfortunate lack of enforcement has led to hundreds of illegal signs.
But that may soon change.
Encouragingly, the city already has begun to remove a number of billboards on city land, including some within view of the new and incredibly successful High Line trail.
And armed with a recent court decision affirming the authority of the city to strictly regulate billboards, a real possibility exists that the days of illegal billboards in New York City are numbered.
photo by Scenic America
The attack came when Senator Coburn (R-OK) sought to eliminate the requirement that states set aside at least 10% of federal highway dollars for Transportation Enhancement projects.
The TE program is a critical source of funds for projects that improve the physical and natural environment. Eligible TE projects range from billboard removal and streetscape improvements to installing wildlife crossings and bike lanes. (Visit the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse here.)
In presenting his amendment, Sen. Coburn took particular issue with "highway beautification" and wildlife enhancement projects.
While thankfully the attempt to end the 10% set-aside requirement failed, scenic advocates must work to ensure that even more funding is alloted to the program in the future. Indeed, the next long-term transportation funding bill, which sets funding priorities for the next six years, is expected to be enacted sometime next year.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Two Missourians emailed me regarding yesterday's Op-Ed piece. I pasted their comments below.
I could not agree more with your article on Missouri billboard proliferation in the St. Louis Post this AM. As a travel writer living in St. Louis I do a lot of driving and am always disappointed when I travel across America and compare my state to others where billboard control is so evident. Even driving between Columbia and KC the signs seem to almost disappear (not sure if it is a result of zoning) and the beauty of the countryside rushes the highway.
I am elated that the possibility of removal of even some is possible as I thought I recalled many of the permanent huge steel pole signs were erected with very long term leases.
I also remember how disappointed I was when some years ago there was some sort of legislation that resulted in a flurry of billboards being erected.
Whenever people tell me they drove across Missouri and that this is a lovely state, my first thought is always that I wonder how they saw it with all the billboards?
Ideally, the blog will grow and change and be a useful resource to everyone in our movement.