Scenic Summer Soirée!

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Join Scenic Philadelphia’s Summer Soirée on Wednesday, August 20th, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM as we celebrate how far we’ve come!

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Enjoy an evening of drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and good conversation at the elegant, art-filled home of artists Richard Ryan and Diane Burko.  Meet local entrepreneur and activist Judy Wicks, author of ”Good Morning, Beautiful Business.”

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

RSVP by August 13th.  Space is limited.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Welcome

Featured

philadelphia-skyline-by-ed-yakovich-wcpd

People are profoundly impacted by the appearance of their surroundings. An attractive visual environment positively affects a city’s economic, cultural, and social development.

 

We believe that citizens are our best hope for improvement and that all residents, regardless of income, education or neighborhood should benefit from laws protecting their built environment.

Contact Us!

Our Office is located at 1315 Walnut Street, Suite 1605.  Call us at 215-731-1796 or send us an e-mail at scenicphiladelphia@gmail.com

 

Billboard Update in Northern California: Third Hurdle Overcome, but Victory Not Yet Final

The northern California city of Albany – near Berkeley and San Francisco – was able to overturn a billboard ordinance the City Council had approved in March that would have allowed a digital billboard on a new maintenance building currently under construction. Scenic East Bay was able to advise them to work together and mount a successful grassroots campaign against the ordinance with help of Sierra Club and especially former City Council member Robert Cheasty.

image003Five members of the public spoke at the City Council meeting on July 21st, including one representative of the Sierra Club.  They argued how digital billboards would adversely affect enjoyment of the waterfront, traffic safety, property values, and wildlife.  Ultimately, four City Council members voted in favor of overturning ordinance.  One council member voted against overturning it.

 

To finalize the ordinance change, there will be a confirmatory vote, most likely at the September 2nd City Council meeting. Monitor this website for the meeting agenda, and visit www.StopTheDigitalBillboard.org for updates on the campaign.

 

Some Exciting Social Media News!

Scenic Philadelphia is finally on Instagram!  Follow us at @myscenicphilly today!

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One of our first #MyScenicPhilly submissions!

The account is part of the new website we’re launching soon, My Scenic Philly.  You’ll be able to submit a photo (via our new Instagram!) or a short blurb that captures your favorite scenic part of Philadelphia, such as a park, neighborhood, public art, architecture, or hidden Philly jewel. Your MyScenicPhilly submission will appear on our map!

The Future of GPS? Choosing “Most Beautiful” Routes

If you prefer beautiful routes over short ones, GPS mapping algorithms are of little use. But Yahoo researchers have come up with an approach that could change that.

Beautiful cities

Last week, MIT Technology Review highlighted members of Yahoo Labs in Barcelona, Spain who have developed an algorithm to measure the “beauty” of specific locations within cities and then choose a route between two locations in a way that maximizes the beauty along it.  Let’s hope this enters all GPS devices soon!

Read the full article here.

Do You Live Near an Illegal Billboard?

City Council will soon pass new billboard laws, legalizing many billboards that the billboard industry identified as illegal in 1990 and Penn Dot identified as illegal in 2006.

Bill #130656   amending Philadelphia’s 1991 outdoor advertising laws and may include the legalization of all illegal billboards in the City.  To view the illegal billboards in your neighborhood please click on the link that corresponds to your Councilmanic District. Contact your Council person to voice your concern.

1st District, Councilman Mark Squilla                  215-686-3458

2nd District, Kenyatta Johnson                             215-686-3412, 3413

3rd District, Jannie Blackwell                                215-686-3418, 3419

4th District, Curtis Jones, Jr.                                 215-686-3416, 3417

5th District, Darrell L. Clarke                                215-686-3442, 3443, 2070

6th District, Bobby Hennon                                   215-686-3444, 3445

7th District, Maria D. Quinones-Sanchez             215-686-3448, 3449

8th District, Cindy Bass                                          215-686-3424, 3429

9th District, Marian B. Tasco                                 215-686-3454, 3455

10th District, Brian J. O’Neill                                 215-686-3422, 3423

The Prevalence of Harmful Content on Billboard Advertising

An L.A. study, conducted by Bryce C. Lowery, MS, MLA, and David C. Sloane, PhD, confirms what we have known or at least suspected – that billboard companies target the most vulnerable communities with ads for things like fast food and alcohol.

digital signs in chicago neighborhood IIIAccording to Sloane and Lowery, public health professionals and planners need to consider the ramifications of the harmful impacts of outdoor advertising.  It is likely, they believe, that outdoor advertising will increase in proliferation “given the rising economic value of outdoor advertising to developers and property owners, the new digital technologies that give advertisers the ability to continuously present new ads, and the belief among many public officials that outdoor advertising enlivens public spaces in a cosmopolitan city.”

Sloane and Lowery also found that the current reliance on land-use zoning as a determinant for the location of billboards can lead to an uneven distribution of harmful content.  This, they fear, puts the well-being of poorer, minority, and at-risk communities at a huge disadvantage.

To read Sloane and Lowery’s full study, click here.

Beauty Is Good for Business: 2014 Scenic America Conference

We are delighted to announce that videos and presentations from the annual Scenic America Conference are now available to watch for free on Scenic America’s website.  Scenic advocates from around the country gathered in Houston on April 11th for this year’s conference.  The theme of the event was: How Scenic Beauty Supports Economic Development, Livability and Tourism.

Click here to watch a brief preview of all the presentations.  You’ll only want to watch more!

Gerald HinesScenic Philadelphia especially enjoyed the talk given by Gerald Hines, Founder and Chairman of  Hines Organization, one of the largest real estate organizations in the world.  Gerald discussed How Scenic Beauty Supports Business.  He used Uptown Houston as an example of a premier mixed-use urban community that connects business with pleasure, energy with grace, and style with substance through projects such as greening the West Loop and Hidalgo Park and implementing a Pedestrian Improvement program.  Click here to watch the full presentation and download Gerald’s powerpoint slides here.

amy-hillierPhiladelphia’s very own Amy Hillier, Ph.D. (Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design; Secondary faculty appointment in the School of Social Policy & Practice) gave a presentation as well on the Public Health Impacts of Planning and Design. She highlighted the short-term and long-term health outcomes that can arise from poor sign control, such as:

- Driver distraction from digital signs leading to increases in car, bike and pedestrian accidents and an overall increase in city casualties/fatalities

- Visual assault from outdoor media leading to over-stimulation/decrease in psychosocial well-being, which contributes to increased risks of chronic disease

- Outdoors/green spaces made less appealing generates less use and lower levels of physical activity and can lead to increases in crime and risk of chronic disease

You can view Amy’s talk here and download her powerpoint slides here

Let There Be LESS Light: Digital Signage in Chicago

Photo from Chris Hall's article "ISA works with Chicago to overturn digital sign ban, Part II" on Digital Signage Today

Photo from Chris Hall’s article “ISA works with Chicago to overturn digital sign ban, Part II” on Digital Signage Today

Below is an interesting interview by a trade publication of David Hickey of the International Sign Association.  The interview gives some insight into how the ISA uses boilerplate language on regulations from city to city when advocating for digital on-premise signs.  They’re working hard to influence planners in particular…

 

ISA works with Chicago to overturn digital sign ban, Part I

ISA works with Chicago to overturn digital sign ban, Part II

The interview was spawned by a recent effort by ISA to overturn a moratorium on on-premise digital signs in Chicago, which is covered nicely in this report.

Anyone complaining about light pollution in Chicago, however, will find no friend in the Mayor’s office.

Billboards and Traffic Safety: An International Concern

Over the past several years, there have been studies conducted across the globe that prove how dangerously distracting billboards are to drivers on major roadways.  Here are two that particularly stood out to us:

isreal before after stats1) In 2007 and 2008, researchers conducted an analytic study of the Ayalon Highway in Tel Aviv, one of Israel’s busiest highways.  They found that the removal of roadside billboards significantly reduced the number of all crashes along the highway and reduced the number fatal or injury crashes by more than two-thirds.

2) A 2012 study from researchers at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute found that drivers look at digital billboards significantly longer than any other road signage, often taking their eyes off the road for more than two seconds.  According to a 2006 report at Virginia Tech for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this seemingly brief period of inattention has been the cause of nearly 80% of car crashes. Thanks to the findings from the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute and other related studies, the Swedish government ordered the removal of all digital billboards.

Taken in Stockholm, Sweden in 2009,  during the country's test of digital billboards.  The sign  has since been removed.

Taken in Stockholm, Sweden in 2009, during the country’s test of digital billboards. The sign has since been removed.

You can read more about the Swedish and Israeli studies at Scenic America’s website.  For more information, click here for compendium of five recent billboard safety studies done by Jerry Wachtel of the Veridian Group, one of the leading human factors / traffic safety firms out there.

Philadelphia at the Forefront of Digital Signage Energy Research

Greg Young reportPhiladelphia’s own Gregory Young, LEED AP, is one of the few people to have conducted research around the environmental and energy-consumption issues raised by digital signage. Young,  an architectural designer and urban planner, crafted a report that provides important insight on the higher electricity consumption, increased light pollution, and recyclability issues that come from the growing popularity of digital signage.  ”As America at last embraces sustainability and Philadelphia strives to become the ‘greenest city in America,’” writes Young, “is a proliferation of digital signs along our highways and storefronts sending the right message?”

For more information about Young’s work, check out this 2011 article from the Philadelphia Inquirer as well as highlights of his report at Scenic America.

UPDATE: Bill No. 130656

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Revisions to Philadelphia’s Outdoor Advertising Sign laws, Bill No. 130656, were introduced by City Councilman Bobby Henon in the Fall of 2013.    The bill has been taken off the City Council calendar for voting.

BACKGROUND:

Councilman Henon volunteered to lead the efforts to rewrite the sign laws when the Planning Commission’s revisions were found unacceptable to many City Council members in June of 2013.  Councilman Henon’s staff worked on this hotly debated legislation for nine months, meeting with members of the billboard industry, city planners, the Mayor’s office and community groups.

The Henon bill required a full inventory of all billboards in the city and would legalize existing billboards in return for a citywide prohibition of new billboards.   New Council bills allowing advertising signage on school district property, municipal property and in specially designated “sign districts” conflicted with this intention.   The legislation was tabled for several months and finally, on March 27, 2014 City Council voted to suspend this bill.  A spokeswoman for Councilman Henon’s office stated that they “plan to try again next fall.”

Lady Bird’s Bill: Scenic Philly and the Highway Beautification Act

Claudia Alta "Lady Bird" Taylor Johnson  was First Lady of the United States (1963–69) during the presidency of her husband, Lyndon B. Johnson.

Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Taylor Johnson was First Lady of the United States (1963–69) during the presidency of her husband, Lyndon B. Johnson.

Scenic Philadelphia is the most knowledgeable source of information on the federal act which controls all federal and primary aid highways including Broad Street, City Avenue, Lancaster Avenue, Roosevelt Expressway, I-676 etc.   Failure to comply with the 1965 Federal Highway Beautification Act, 23 U.S.C. Section 131, et seq. (HBA)  also known as Lady Bird’s Bill can result in a serious penalty and loss of federal highway funding for states found out of compliance with federal spacing, size and lighting regulations.  This Act governs the areas within 660 feet of federal and primary aid highways.   State DOT’s  are charged with enforcement and overseen by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). We continue to monitor state oversight of the HBA in Philadelphia and  have been told that the  FHWA and PENNDOT have met regularly with the City to gain better compliance with the HBA.  We worked directly with the Department of Licenses and Inspections on an application for a federal transportation grant.