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.