Franklin Institute’s Digital Parkway Billboard Splits Commonwealth Court Judges


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With all the recent commotion surrounding UEDs (lots of information on those here), it’s been easy to forget about the billboard battles going on elsewhere in Philadelphia.

Today, the Judges of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania released their opinions on the Franklin Institute’s proposed installment of a digital billboard-type sign along the historic and scenic Ben Franklin Parkway. Unfortunately, the majority of the judges found that Scenic Philadelphia and the area’s neighbors had no standing in challenging the ZBA’s variance granted for the sign.

We will continue to fight this decision, and anticipate taking it to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. We believe that all Philadelphians, especially those who cross the already-dangerous parkway by foot or use its numerous recreational facilities on a regular basis, ought to have standing on a decision that will so adversely affect one of our nation’s most grand boulevards.

In her opinion, the Honorable Judge Leadbetter wrote, “I would allow standing to citizens of the City, not because they are taxpayers, but because they are the intended beneficiaries of this beautiful civic treasure and they would truly be aggrieved if it were to be spoiled.” We agree wholeheartedly with Judge Leadbetter, and hope that the Judges on the Supreme Court see it her way as well.

Please take a look at the full document of the judges’ opinions here, or on our newly organized Library, where you can read a number of reports and documents.

Nutter Concerned Over Council’s UED Bill


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According to an article written this past Friday, Mayor Nutter’s administration is concerned with the recent Council passage of Bill 140906, which allows for the construction of massive, digital billboards (“UEDs”) in Center City.

According to Mayor Nutter’s spokesman Mark McDonald, “‘The administration fears the impact of these full-motion videos on drivers [who may be distracted by them],’ he said, adding that in 2013, 1,761 people were struck and injured by vehicles and another 37 people died.”

We will continue to pressure Mayor Nutter toward vetoing this awful bill. Stay tuned for updates as this issue develops.

Daily News Gets it Right: City Sold Short on UEDs


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Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

The Philly Daily News Editorial Board hit the nail on the head today: “If we’re trading our public space, we should at least be getting something valuable in return. A ‘digital experience’ isn’t one of them.”

“[T]he ever-expanding encroachment of commercial messages on the landscape [...] is one of those elements of modern life that gradually chips away at civilization. It seems too late, too pointless to protest, although we should never give up claiming the right to peace from intrusive advertising.

Well said!!


UED Update: Bill Passes 13-3


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Thank you again for signing the petition in opposition to the “Urban Experiential Display” bill that went before City Council Thursday morning.

We gave each councilmember a packet that contained the names, addresses, and comments that appeared on the petition website along with a GIS map which Scenic Philadelphia created to illustrate the council districts where each of the signers resided.

At the time of the hearing there were 903 people who signed the petition and 300 of these reside in Councilman Squilla’s district. There was a big turnout at City Hall and we are so grateful to all our friends and supporters who came today. Some people on our side were turned away from entering even though I learned later there was additional seating space available.

The Council decided that only five people from each side would be allowed to speak. In addition to myself, Crosstown Coalition Chair Steve Huntington, Center City Residents’ President Jeff Braff, Design Advocacy Group’s Kiki Bolender and a resident from the Academy House on Broad Street spoke passionately against the bill. Those on the other side generated a big turnout who applauded wildly after each of their speakers. Speaking in favor of the bill were several nonprofits who expect a share of the profits from the 3D billboards: Convention Center, Reading Terminal, Avenue of the Arts and Rail Park. The bill’s sponsor, Councilmember Squilla, gave lip service to our concerns, saying he had listened to “all sides” and that he was giving most weight to those who live closest to the proposed structures.

Approval of the Planning Commission had been stripped from the bill the preceding week, a concern for Councilmembers at Large Blondell Reynolds-Brown and Willson W. Goode who voted against the bill. Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who represents Center City’s West Broad also voted no.

Ultimately the final council vote was 13 – 3 in favor of the bill. We are analyzing our options going forward, which might include petitioning Mayor Nutter for a veto and trying to establish additional support on the council to sustain the veto. We will be in touch to let you know what the next steps will be and how you can help. In the meantime we thank you again for showing your support for Philadelphia’s public spaces.



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urban-experiential-display-screenshot-from-promotional-video-catalyst-outdoor.0.87.961.453.752.355.cTomorrow (3/16) morning at 10AM, in Room 400 of City Hall, Philadelphia City Council will vote on Bill 140906, which, if passed, would allow for massive 3D billboards in the heart of our city.

We ask you come express your opinions regarding “urban experiential displays” at the City Council meeting tomorrow. Council business often takes up the first 45 minutes to an hour so you can come later. Be sure to sign up with clerk by the door to testify on Bill 140906.

As of 4:45 today, we have over 800 signatures on our petition asking City Council to Vote No on Bill 140906. If you have not yet signed the petition, please consider doing so here and leaving a comment as to why Philadelphia’s beauty and integrity matter to you!

Protect Philadelphia’s Unique Visual Character against 3-D Billboards Take Action on Bill 140906


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The good news is that Councilman Kenyatta Johnson removed his district from the bill eliminating one of the 3-D video billboard structures currently in this legislation. He explained that the visits, calls and letters from constituents changed his mind.

It is our hope that you and others will contact Council and achieve the same result. The bill is up for a vote this Thursday and a few minutes of your time to communicate with Councilmembers could make a difference.

Councilman Squilla is expected to call for a vote on Thursday March 26th.  Room 400 City Hall at 10:00 AM.

ATTEND THE HEARING: Council business often takes up the first 45 minutes to an hour so you can come later. Be sure to sign up with clerk by the door to testify on Bill 140906

More voices from Philadelphia residents are needed . As Councilman Kenyatta explained when he removed his district from the bill, ” I was not aware that so many people in my district were opposed to these signs.

There is much you can do to shape the future of Philadelphia’s public realm:

1. Call Councilman Squilla,and the 7 Councilmembers at large . Also your own district councilperson. Find out if they plan to support or vote against Bill 140906. Explain your concerns and ask them not to turn over Center City’s public spaces to commercial advertising.

Click here for contact information

2. Sign this Petition  – Almost 500 people have already signed this petition which we will deliver to Councilmembers..

3. ATTEND THE HEARING  this Thursday and when you get there sign up at the door to testify for 3 minutes on Bill 140906.

4. Send an email - We cannot promise it will work this time but have been told it is fixed and will not bounce.

5.Forward this posting alert to 10 friends and neighbors!

UED Bill CORRECTION, Second Reading this Thursday MARCH 19TH


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In our last post, we said that Bill 140906, which would allow for the construction of tacky 3D billboards on our city streets, may possibly see its second reading in City Council on March 18th.

The second reading is actually expected for Thursday, March 19th. We apologize for any confusion the previous post may have caused.

urban-experiential-display-screenshot-from-promotional-video-catalyst-outdoor.0.87.961.453.752.355.cIf you value the historic and authentic aesthetics of Philadelphia that make it a unique place to live, work, or visit, please consider attending this City Council meeting, this Thursday, March 19th, at 10:00 AM, Room 400 City Hall, to have your opinion heard!

If you can not attend this Thursday’s City Council Meeting, please sign our petition, asking City Council to Vote NO on Bill 140906 and protect Philadelphia’s unique visual character.

Councilman Squilla HOLDS Bill on Advertising Overlay; Sign Our Petition to STOP UEDs


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We would first like to thank all the concerned Philadelphians who attempted to e-mail City Council regarding Bill 140906 and the construction of 3D digital billboards (“Urban Experiential Displays”). Unfortunately, the City e-mail system blocked many of your e-mails. To ensure that City Council hears your voice, please take a moment to sign our petition, which we will hand deliver to Council.

Yo, Adrian! This isn't "the convergence of art and advertising"--it's just plain ugly!

Yo, Adrian! This isn’t “the convergence of art and advertising”–it’s just plain ugly!

Bill 140906 which will allow for 6-story-tall 3-D full motion video signage structures  within a special overlay district in Center City did not have its second reading today.

Councilman Squilla has held the bill for further amendments.

The bill may be ready for reading at the Thursday, March 19th Council meeting. This means we have a whole ‘nother week to tell Council to vote against these insults to our city’s aesthetic integrity.

As always, we will keep you posted on this issue’s progress.

Planning Commissioners Vote Against Bill to Allow 3D Billboards; Will Rules Committee Follow Their Lead?


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This past week, Philadelphia Planning Commissioners voted to oppose the passage of Bill No. 140906, a bill proposed by Councilman Mark Squilla, which allow for the construction of “urban experiential displays” (AKA 3D digital billboards) in Center City. After a presentation and commentary from the advertiser’s attorney and Scenic Philadelphia’s Mary Tracy, the Commissioners voted to oppose the passage of the bill with one Commissioner commenting, “I can’t in good conscience approve this in any case.”


This Tuesday, February 24, at 10 A.M. the City Council Rules Committee will be voting on bill number 140906, which would allow for the construction of.


These “sculptural” digital billboards will play full motion videos of commercials with accompanying audio content. The 3D billboards would be allowed to be constructed up to a height of six stories. Although the bill currently lists three locations that would be the sites of the first installment of billboards, it would open the door to a wave of UEDs flooding the area around City Hall.


Opponents of the bill say that outdoor advertising has been banned in Center City for over 25 years. Unlike the recently adopted Market East Advertising District, which requires building owners who construct digital billboards to earmark $10 million for public improvements, the billboard company proposing these 3D billboards has only promised a small amount of money to a select few non-profit groups. No consideration of the safety impact of full motion video and sound will have on drivers and pedestrians in a very busy section of Center City.


Why should City Council approve a bill that would not benefit Philadelphia or its citizens? If you would like to protect our most historic public spaces from abrasive, gaudy 3D billboards, please take the following steps:

  1. Attend the Rules Committee Meeting this Tuesday, February 24, at 10 A.M., Room 676 City Hall and voice your objections to this bill.
  2. Contact the Councilmembers listed below and tell them to STOP Bill 140906, a bill which favors the interests of one outdoor advertising company over that of an entire city.


Councilman Greenlee (215) 686-3446, (215) 686-3447

Councilman Henon (215) 686-3444, (215) 686-3445

Councilman Good (215) 686-3414, (215) 686-3415

Councilwoman Tasco (215) 686-3454, (215) 686-3455

Councilwoman Bass (215) 686-3424, (215) 686-3425

Councilman O’Brien (215) 686-3440, (215) 686-3441

Councilwoman Brown (215) 686-3438, (215) 686-3439

Upcoming PCPC Hearing on Sidewalk-Level 3D Billboards


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This Tuesday at 1the Philadelphia City Planning Commission will be voting on whether to recommend legislation introduced by Councilman Mark Squilla to allow “Urban Experiential Displays” in Center City. The full text of this bill is available below.

The bill currently before Council would adjust the zoning code, making way for a “UED District” around City Hall. This district would be in addition to the recently enacted Market East Advertising District, which has allowed for the construction of digital billboards along that corridor on the Lits Building.

These eye-level 3D billboards will take up space on the public right-of-way, prove distracting for drivers and pedestrians, and will cast bright, changing lights into nearby offices and hotel rooms.

Please check out PlanPhilly’s latest update on this legislation here.

For questions or comments regarding this bill, please call Councilman Mark Squilla’s office at (215)686-3458, (215)686-3459.

IMPORTANT UPCOMING COURT CASES: Scenic Philadelphia v. Franklin Institute; and 1115 Vine Street


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This Wednesday, February 11th, Pennsylvania’s Court of Common Pleas will be hearing two cases which may greatly influence the aesthetic future of Philadelphia.

FI_othersideRENDERThe first, Scenic Philadelphia V. the Philadelphia Zoning Board and Franklin Institute, involves the proposed conversion of Franklin Institute’s current conventional billboard to a digital display. The proposed digital billboard, located at the corner of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, N. 20th Street, and Winter Street, is not allowed by-right, but was granted a zoning variance. We believe this variance was granted in error.

This digital display would prove distracting to pedestrians and drivers, at what is already a dangerous intersection.

It’s electric glow would cast into the parkland and playgrounds of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, which is part of Philadelphia’s treasured Fairmount Park.

The construction of a digital billboard along the Parkway would set a dangerous precedent for other nearby institutions and could even open the door to an influx of private advertising interests.

Most importantly, the erection of a digital billboard location would violate six different zoning prohibitions. Additionally, the Franklin Institute has failed to prove any financial hardship that would even make the granting of a zoning variance appropriate.


The second case, one involving the conversion of a billboard to a digital format at 1115 Vine Street, is also against the Philadelphia Zoning Code.

This digital sign would also prove distracting to drivers on the Vine Street Expressway as well as those on our city’s streets.

The changing images of the display would cast flashing lights into the windows of nearby houses, apartments, and offices.

Lastly, it would degrade the visual characteristics of a neighborhood that has taken great strides in improving its aesthetic qualities.

Cases like these matter. Their results will guide the way that Philadelphia handles electric billboards, and will shape a large part of Philly’s aesthetic future. Billboards–especially bright, distracting, digital billboards–do not belong near our most prized civic institutions and they do not belong in the parks in which our children play. With your help, we can tell the City Council and the Zoning Board of Adjustments that digital billboards do not belong on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway or along our city streets.


Amendments Accepted, Billboard Bill Scheduled for Final Vote December 11, 2014


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The Amendments to Billboard Bill No. 130565 have been accepted and are slated for final vote on December 11, 2014. While the conditions proposed in these amendments are overall an improvement from the original bill, Scenic Philadelphia will continue fighting against the intrusion of digital billboards and other forms of urban blight into our city’s neighborhoods.

Many thanks to those who have made a donation to Scenic Philadelphia to support our work.    


The highlights of the amendments are as follows: Most neighborhoods escaped the nuisance of digital billboard conversions, except those near I-76 and I-95.

Today’s amendment requires removal of 2 billboards in exchange for 1 digital conversion. (Increase from 1 yesterday).

Amendment allows for maximum brightness measurement of 450 nits at night instead of 700. (Better than 700 nits but 3.5 times brighter than conventional billboard’s 125 nits).

Unfortunately, billboard owners will be permitted to increase sign height to be seen over the sound barriers and highway directional signs over highway. We recommend using clear sound barriers to avoid the need to raise heights.

Customary Maintenance will allow for the reconstruction of foundations of non-conforming billboards, but PROHIBTS changing sign to digital, or increasing size, height, etc.

Timing. The duration of each display is still eight (8) seconds. We asked for 60 seconds.


Please view the full text of the accepted Amendments to Billboard Bill Number 130656 below.



Driving In and Around Philadelphia


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Hello Scenic Philadelphians!

Please check out a couple of videos that we prepared after driving around our city. The first video takes the viewer through South Philly and all around the city’s major thoroughfares and interstates. The second video highlights the roadways along the Delaware River.

While you watch these videos, be sure to notice how billboards and urban blight obstruct scenic vistas, mar our city’s corridors, and act as distractions for drivers!  Try to imagine how these shots would look without these billboards, and of course, enjoy the abundant urban beauty that have not yet been marred by outdoor advertising.

With that said, sit back, relax, and enjoy these two short driver’s-eye-view videos!

Scenic Pittsburgh on 1410AM KQV


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Scenic Pittsburgh’s Executive Director, Mike Dawida, is being featured on 1410 KQV News Radio throughout this afternoon. Be sure to tune in for his comments on how digital billboards are a danger to drivers.

If you’re in the greater Pittsburgh area, tune in to 1410 AM radio, otherwise click here to stream over the web.

Also, be sure to sure to check out the work that Scenic Pittsburgh is doing at their web page.

LED Light a “Toxic Stress” on Retina; Children Advised to Avoid Sources


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In connection with our post from a couple weeks ago, more disturbing news related to the health effects of LED lights.

Anses, the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety, has reported that the intense blue light emitted by LED diodes, like those found on digital billboards, is a “toxic stress” on the retina, with a “severe dazzling risk.”Additionally, “youngsters are particularly sensitive to this risk as their eyes are still developing.” The report goes on to recommend “avoiding the use of light sources rich in blue in places frequented by children.”

Artist depiction of a proposed digital billboard at the Franklin Institute.

Artist depiction of a proposed digital billboard at the Franklin Institute.

Should we really be allowing the construction of LED billboards in public places?

English news article on the report can be found here.
Anses’ translated report summary can be found here.
A PDF of the full report (Francophones only!) can be found here.

Billboard Owner Sues City of Madison, WI for Blocking Views with Bike Bridge


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As Madison, Wisconsin has recently discovered, an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure!

Beltline billboard

A billboard advertising company is suing the city of Madison for constructing a bike overpass bridge that has blocked its view from traffic, “contending the value of the sign and property had been ‘substantially devalued.'” Link to the article here.

Two points of note:
1. Had the billboard not been built, and the advertiser never had a chance to claim rights to public sight-lines, this lawsuit could have been avoided.
2. It’s interesting that nearby homeowners did not sue the advertiser when his billboard most likely reduced their property values!


In Cities Across Texas, Activists Battle Billboard Companies


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Don Glendenning, president of Scenic Dallas, stands with volunteer Marc Shidid below one of Dallas' new digital billboards.

Don Glendenning, president of Scenic Dallas, stands with volunteer Marc Shidid below one of Dallas’ new digital billboards. (John Burnett/NPR)

Kudos to our affiliates in Texas, who are working hard to prevent the spread of visual pollution in their cities and along their highways.

“In Texas, 388 cities — including most large and medium-size cities — have ordinances prohibiting new billboards.”

Link to the NPR article here.

Show Us YOUR Scenic Philly!


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Do you have a favorite building in Philadelphia? Know of a green oasis you want to share with the world? Maybe some spectacular public art, or a perfect view of the Schuykill?

Row houses on South Street.

Row houses on South Street.

We want to see YOUR Scenic Philly! is the place to post pictures of your favorite architecture, parks, neighborhoods, art, and views. If you’re on Instagram, please be sure to tag us in all your Philly pictures and follow us @myscenicphilly

This is your city–what do YOU love about it?

Scenic Summer Soirée Success!


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Our Scenic Summer Soirée was a huge success! We have always believed that beauty is good for business, and we were delighted to have local entrepreneur and author Judy Wicks elaborate on this idea and read excerpts from her recent book “Good Morning, Beautiful Business.” Visit to learn more about her work!


Judy Wicks reads excerpts from her recent book “Good Morning, Beautiful Business.”

Thanks to all our attendees for coming out and supporting the effort to keep Philadelphia beautiful!

All our pictures from the Soirée can be viewed on our Facebook page. While you’re there, be sure to Like ScenicPhiladelphia so you can stay up to date on news, events, and more! If you have any photos from the event you would like to share, please tag us by typing “@ScenicPhiladelphia” as a comment on the picture.



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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