Posted May 7, 2013
Discovery Green Park in Downtown Houston is utilized by one million people annually. They listen to live music, watch movies, walk dogs and splash in water fountains. Civic leaders say it has helped change the city’s image and development in and around the Park is thriving. When proposed in 2004, the Park was met with considerable skepticism and was labeled a “big waste”, now it is a key part of the city’s sales pitch when seeking new businesses or large scale events like the the Super Bowl. Click here to read more.
Posted April 25, 2013
Philadelphia has employed an all encompassing strategy to protect its assets from regulations that they feel threaten their bottom line. Well worth reading for the big picture and to understand why we need your support.
Callowhill and neighborhoods south of it, including Society Hill, had a narrow escape from the billboard district bill. Mayor Nutter vetoed the bill in January, and First District Councilman Mark Squilla, in an eleventh-hour move, decided not to ask City Council to override the veto. The bill (front page article in the Jan/Feb Reporter) would have allowed a seven-story digital advertising sign on the Electric Factory building, at 7th and Callow hill, owned by New York developer Myron Berman. Whether three court decisions (including the Pennsylvania and U.S. Supreme Courts) and two mayoral vetoes will finally squash Berman’s campaign to put a giant digital wall wrap on his building is anyone’s guess. However, we hope that we have heard the last of this matter. (Read the January 30, 2013, Philadelphia Inquirer editorial for more information on this bill.)
Click here to read the full story!
PHILADELPHIA, February 20, 2013 Above the Law and Under the Radar: The Philadelphia Billboard Industry’s Failure to Comply with Local, State, and Federal Laws identifies over 100 billboards located along Philadelphia’s federal aid highways in violation of the Highway Beautification Act (HBA). This widespread failure to comply with the HBA is expected to trigger a Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) audit and possible penalties which could cost the City millions of dollars in lost federal-aid highway funding unless the billboard structures and sign faces are brought into compliance.
The Report focused on billboards located within city limits along the I-95 and I-676 highways and several along I-76. In total, 183 billboard structures, supporting 331 sign faces located within 660 feet of these highways were analyzed for compliance. Research revealed that only 18 percent of the billboards in the study were in compliance with all local, state, and federal regulations, and had valid permits
Hundreds of billboards in Philadelphia are located along Federal and Primary-Aid highways. This report is intended to help the City identify those billboards which should be removed due to their noncompliance due to the serious risk they pose for future loss of federal-aid highway funding.
Mary Tracy, executive director of Scenic Philadelphia said the timing of the report is perfect. “City Council is about to introduce legislation for outdoor advertising signs and hopefully they will use this data to take appropriate action.”
Sarah Richards, the author of Above the Law and Below the Radar is in her final year of the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of City Planning program in the Graduate School of Design. She was the recipient of a Samuel F. Fels Summer Internship Research Grant.
Jan Hefler, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer
In a 14-page opinion released this week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third District in Philadelphia upheld Mount Laurel’s 2008 ban on billboards along the township’s stretches of I-295 and the New Jersey Turnpike.
Interstate Outdoor Advertising L.P. appealed, saying the ordinance was unconstitutional because it limited free speech and was based on flawed traffic studies.
The court said that the town’s “conclusion that billboards affect traffic safety and aesthetics” was reasonable, and that municipalities have the right to regulate billboards.
Interstate Outdoor, a regional billboard company, had sought permission from the town’s zoning board to erect four billboards along I-295, a six-lane highway, the opinion said. Drew A. Katz, chief executive of Interstate Outdoor, also is a director of Interstate General Media, the company that owns The Inquirer. His father, Lewis Katz, a partner in Interstate General Media, is former chairman of Interstate Outdoor.
Interstate Outdoor presented an expert witness who testified that an analysis of accidents on I-295 revealed it was not a hazardous highway in Mount Laurel. But the court noted that it was possible the “precise reason the accident rate is so low” is the lack of billboards.
The ruling means Mount Laurel “will retain its existing ‘billboard-free’ ” character, said Christopher J. Norman, the township’s special counsel in the case. Only two small billboards appear within the town’s borders because they were erected before the ordinance was adopted.
Norman said “the opinion sets the law on regulating billboards” in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Louis L. D’Arminio, who represented Interstate Outdoor, did not return a call for comment.
The court agreed that the town’s ordinance limited Interstate’s speech but said that was overshadowed by regulatory interests. “Interstate alleges that the complete ban on billboard messages does not allow for alternative channels for communication . . . to the specific target audience of the drivers traveling on I-295,” the court wrote.
But there are many alternative ways to get the message out, including Internet advertising, direct mail, radio, newspapers, and television, the court said.
Great news!! Philadelphia’s skyline is saved from the intrusion of a seven story digital advertising sign and our transportation projects will not be denied federal highway funding. Thankfully, Councilman Squilla did not call for an override of the Mayor’s veto Thursday, his last opportunity to do so. Your letter and phone calls to City Council made a critical difference and Scenic Philadelphia is extremely grateful to you for your active support. Thank you. Many thanks to Mayor Nutter for his veto, as well as the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration for safeguarding Philadelphia’s scenic skyline and upholding the Federal Highway Beautification Act.
Blinking digital signs may still be a threat to some neighborhoods. City Council will be passing a new outdoor advertising sign code in the near future. Please stay tuned for further information.
Do we want this to be the future of the Electric Factory building?
The Bill’s sponsor, Councilman Squilla may still try to round up the 12 votes needed to override the Mayor’s veto and has until next Thursday to do so. So take a few moments this week to contact our at-large and your district council members.
Thank you for your advocacy in protecting Philadelphia’s scenic gateway!
Click Here to read Mayor Nutters letter to the City Council!
Click Here to read PennDot’s letter to the President of the City Council!
Click Here to email City Council!
The investigative journalism group FairWarning exposes the billboard industry for citing discredited research in their efforts to diminish a recent Swedish study that found digital billboards to be quite distracting.
“In an effort to dismiss the findings, the industry’s top trade group quickly cited an unpublished U.S. government study to argue that the electronic displays pose no traffic safety hazard.
But as FairWarning reported last February, publication of the federal study has been delayed indefinitely because expert reviewers concluded that its key findings were not believable.”
A new study, conducted by researchers at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute and funded by the Swedish Transport Administration, concludes that digital billboards attract and hold the gazes of drivers for far longer than a threshold that previous studies have shown to be dangerous.The Swedish government had given temporary authorization to erect digital billboards in 2009. As a result of this and related studies, however, the government has ordered the removal of all digital billboards.
According to the research, drivers looked at digital billboards significantly longer than at other signs along the same route, in fact, often for more two seconds at a time. Study results were recently published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.
The study’s authors noted that it’s not surprising that digital billboards attract greater attention from drivers: the signs are brighter, visible from greater distances and display a constantly-changing series of advertisements. They concluded that digital billboards “have the potential ability to keep up the driver’s curiosity over an extended period of time.” Previous human behavior studies have shown that drivers are hardwired to notice bright, changing lights in their peripheral vision and to anticipate additional motion.
“This study validates what is common sense when it comes to digital billboards,” said Mary Tracy, president of Scenic America. ”Bright, constantly-changing signs on the side of the road are meant to attract and keep the attention of drivers, and this study confirms that is exactly what they do.”
An earlier study by Virginia Tech in 2006 for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road for more than two seconds greatly increases the risk of a crash. The study also found that nearly 80% of all crashes involved driver inattention just prior to (within 3 seconds) of the crash.
The powerful pull of digital billboards is a topic that flickers across the news media in the U. S. now and then, but not long enough to create a wave of general protest or national regulation, at least not thus far. In 2010, for example, the New York Times published a story called Driven to Distraction, in which the author noted that digital billboard critics refer to the medium as “television on a stick,” writing that: “These high-tech billboards marry the glow of Times Square with the immediacy of the Internet.”
Some cities have stepped in to ban digital billboards, but not many, and the billboard industry has been vocal in their defense.
The new Swedish study, as well as two other recently completed studies of digital billboards, will be presented during the Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, DC, on January 16, 2013.
A three-judge panel on Monday ruled that roughly 100 digital billboards installed in Los Angeles under a 2006 legal settlement approved by the Los Angeles City Council must be removed.
The panel from the state’s 2nd District Court of Appeal said sign companies CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel outdoor should not have been allowed to convert their existing billboards to electronic formats when existing laws prohibited such changes. “We do not see how the language could be plainer,” the ruling states.
The panel instructed a lower court to order the removal of digital billboards already permitted under the agreement, many of which were on the Westside.
Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, hailed the ruling. “Needless to say, [it's] a very happy day for us,” he said in an email.
Of the billboards that are at issue, 79 are operated by Clear Channel. The remainder were owned by CBS.
CBS and Clear Channel sued the city nearly a decade ago, seeking to block implementation of an ordinance banning the installation of new billboards except in special sign districts. In 2006, the council backed a settlement with the two companies that allowed them to convert up to 840 existing billboards to electronic formats.
Summit Outdoor, a smaller sign company, went to court to invalidate the agreement, calling it a sweetheart deal.
A judge sided with Summit, calling the agreement “poison” and blocking the city from allowing new digital signs to go up. But he refused to order the removal of the 100 or so billboards that had already been converted to digital formats under the 2006 settlement.
“It’s fantastic,” said Barbara Broide, president of the Westwood South of Santa Monica Blvd. Homeowners Assn., which filed an amicus brief in support of Summit Media’s lawsuit. “I think this is a hard-fought win. This city should be grateful to Summit for having brought the suit.”
SPRINGFIELD — The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has ruled Springfield officials were within their rights to reject six applications for billboards on Baltimore Pike submitted by the Bartkowski Investment Group (BIG) but overstepped in banning billboards from the township entirely.
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