Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

LA Sues 27 Sign Companies over Supergraphics

(photo: Kirk McCoy/ Los Angeles Times/ March 25, 2009)

In another encouraging sign that Los Angeles city government has had enough of flagrant violations of its sign law, the City Counselor's Office filed a civil suit this week against 27 companies that have been wrapping supergraphic signs over as many as 250 buildings in the city. Criminal charges are also pending against some companies.

The suit not only seeks the removal of the signs as well as damages and the disgorgement of profits made through the illegal activity. Crimal charges are also pending against some companies.

Update: The Los Angeles Times' coverage of the suit is here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Illegal Spot Zoning Attempt Denied

A rather common practice of potential billboard owners is to attempt to reclassify agricultural or residential property to commercial or industrial in order to allow for a billboard. What is disconcerting is when local government officials seem prepared to accommodate such requests.

But planners in Dyer County, Tennessee had to drop an effort to rezone a small portion of agricultural land in order to accommodate a billboard after learning from TDOT that such "spot zoning" is illegal and runs afoul of both the letter and spirit of the Highway Beautification Act, which only permits billboards in commercial or industrial areas.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Big Billboard Seeks End to No New Billboards Law in Petersburg, VA

Petersburg, VA has benefited from a strong sign ordinance that has prohibited new billboards since 1991. But now Big Billboard has written up an ordinance change that it hopes will bring a digital landscape to the 1-95 corridor. For every digital billboard allowed along I-95, the proposal would require the removal of an existing billboard in the inner city. City council will vote on Big Billboard's proposal on March 2nd. This excellent letter to the editor of The Progress-Index has more.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

National Scenic Byways 2010 Solicitation of Grant Proposals Announced

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued the FY 2010 solicitation for proposals under the National Scenic Byways Program. FHWA has added a new emphasis on proposals that support livability, and once again is encouraging the application of large-scale, high-cost projects that provide strategic benefits to the byway. Local governments and 501(c)(3) entities are among those eligible to apply in coordination with State DOT's.

Individual DOT's will set their own deadlines to review individual applications, but must forward applications to FHWA regional offices by April 16th. Visit for more information.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Denver Moves Towards Digital Moratorium

In a further move towards ensuring that the Denver's beauty doesn't get threatened by digital blight, a proposed moratorium on new digital billboards was approved by the zoning committee and will now head for a public hearing and vote by the full council.

Denver already has strict limits on digital signs and only allows a change in ad copy once every hour; as a result, there are only three digital billboards in the city. A moratorium to allow for the study of the safety affects and other issues should further ensure that the city remains vigilant against the threat of digital blight. Kudos to city officials for putting public safety and the concerns of Denver's residents ahead of Big Billboard.

Friday, February 19, 2010

U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds NYC Billboard Limits

In another legal blow to Big Billboard, the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld New York City's prohibition of commercial off-premises billboards along the city's major highways.

The city has had such a ban since 1940, but has had a weak record on enforcement. The Court of Appeals ruled that spotty enforcement in the past does not preclude the city from enforcing the prohibition now. The court also rejected the argument by Clear Channel and other large billboard companies that New York violated the First Amendment by prohibiting highway billboards while allowing smaller signs elsewhere in the city.

D.C. Residents Face Threat from Supergraphics

photo: Washington City Paper

The presence of supergraphics in a concentrated, unique entertainment district like Times Square is one thing, but even NYC now takes a strong stand against supergraphics elsewhere in the city. Allowing D.C.'s stately beauty to be despoiled by supergraphic signs is unthinkable.

A public hearing on the special sign legislation is scheduled for 2 p.m. today.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

LA finds digital billboards should not have been allowed

In yet another reminder that digital billboards have no place near neighborhoods, the Los Angeles Area Planning Commission ruled that permits for three digital signs were wrongly issued by the city's building department. L.A. based Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight reports that the highly distracting signs generated numerous complaints from surrounding residents.

The ruling means the signs are now operating without a valid permit and may lead to similar decisions against the other 90+ digital billboards in the city.

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times covers the victory for scenic advocates.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

South Saint Paul residents live digital billboard nightmare

Digital billboards are a safety concern to motorists, but in yet another reminder that these extremely bright signs also are a frustrating nuisance to neighboring homeowners, WCCO -CBS brings us this story of a South St. Paul neighborhood under a digital assault from a nearby sign in West St. Paul.

As one homeowner says, "Its here all the time. It's like a tv set on all the time." As for the decision of West St. Paul to allow the sign, another homeowner says, "I think it is a really crummy, disrespectful way to treat people you live so closely with."

After viewing the video, I think you'll agree that municipal officials who allow distracting digital signs to invade the quiet enjoyment of homeowners are indeed disrespectful.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Scenic activist questions proposal to weaken Tucson sign ordinance

Tucson, Arizona activist Mark Mayer is highlighted in an Inside Tucson Business article about a proposed change to the city's sign code that would allow nonconforming signs to be exempted from complying with the current code in cases of signs affected by street widening.

Mayer notes the proposal would upend long-standing policy by Tucson that has successfully removed over 70 nonconforming billboards over the past 25 years.