Is 2017 the year Philly finally says “goodbye” to illegal billboards?

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In 2016, we saw the City of Philadelphia lose most of its control over outdoor advertising enforcement after failing to uphold its agreement with the State of Pennsylvania to enforce regulations required by the Federal Highway Beautification Act.  Weak enforcement in years past has resulted in the proliferation of illegal billboards like the one pictured below polluting the visual landscape of our city.  PennDOT now has the authority to regulate outdoor advertising on Federal Aid Highways in Philadelphia.

Illegal billboard on recreation zoned land adjacent to McDevitt Recreation Center and Roosevelt Boulevard in East Falls

Illegal billboard on recreation zoned land adjacent to McDevitt Recreation Center and Roosevelt Boulevard in East Falls

On November 29, 2016, representatives of Scenic Philadelphia met with PennDOT to discuss the billboard permitting process, which will be PennDOT’s main tool of enforcement.  PennDOT representatives explained that the permitting process could take up to two years to complete.  However, we hope that we will start seeing some of the illegal billboards come down in 2017!

At the meeting, Scenic Philadelphia provided PennDOT with information on billboards in Philadelphia that we know know to be illegal due to size, spacing, zoning, or various elements of noncompliance with the Federal Highway Beautification Act.  In addition, several other outdoor advertising topics and emerging issues in Philadelphia were discussed including recreational zoning overlay Roosevelt Boulevard, advertising on Municipal Buildings, SEPTA signage, and East Market Street digital displays.

Finally, PennDOT representatives explained the Highway Beautification Management System to Scenic Philadelphia representatives.  Using the GIS feature one can see where billboards are located that have been granted an outdoor advertising device permit by PennDOT and various information on the permitted billboards including dimensions.

Concerned about a billboard in your neighborhood? Share those concerns with PennDOT point of contact vcole@pa.gov.

Want to know what roads in Philly are Federal Aid Highways and under the purview of PennDOT?   Check out the PennDOT map or Federal Aid Highways PHL

Scenic Philadelphia Summer Soirée

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Scenic soiree logoPlease join us for Scenic Philadelphia’s Summer Soirée, celebrating 25 years of protecting the visual character of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods and the beauty of its scenic vistas, on Wednesday, July 13 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at the Presidential City’s Sora Pool Club.

Register at www.scenic.org/soiree

If you would like to purchase tickets with a check please mail to: 

Scenic Philadelphia
1504 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19146

If you have any questions regarding tickets please call Scenic Philadelphia at 856.428.7585.

Hosted by:

post brothers logo

Complimentary valet parking included with your ticket!

City Council hearing Tuesday, June 7 on billboards in park space

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pennypackparksign5-25

Pennypack Park- Council Hearing Tuesday, June 7 10:00 AM in Room 400

Philadelphia City Council’s Rules Committee will hear testimony regarding Pennypack Park Rezoning Bill NO. 160275 to rezone a parcel of Pennypack Park for industrial use, accompanied by Pennypack Park Billboard Exemption Bill NO. 160276  to allow Keystone Outdoor Advertising to erect a 55 foot high digital billboard on the rezoned parcel.  The bill removes a critical buffer bordering the banks of Pennypack Creek, which flows into the Delaware River  (see above photo).  Philadelphia’s billboard laws prohibit billboards in areas zoned for parks and open space and also within 660 feet of a park. Philadelphia laws limit heights to 45 feet, (Keystone proposes 55 feet and digital at this location).  The City code also requires equal square footage of signs be removed before a new billboard is erected.  The legislation exempts Keystone from having to comply with these restrictions.

6601 New State Road

The Committee will also hear testimony regarding Keystone Billboard Legalization Bill No. 160272 which will legalize and digitize an illegal billboard, located at 6601 New State Road adjacent to the future site of Mast Community Charter School.  The billboard was denied a permit on May 14th 1997 because it is located within 660 feet of a park, and was 86 feet high (almost twice as high as allowed in the City of Philadelphia).   Both the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied Keystone’s appeal, exhausting all legal options in 2002. 

Finally Philadelphia Municipal Judge Alan Silberstein ordered Keystone Outdoor Advertising to remove the illegal billboard or pay a fine of $150.00 a day for every day that the billboard remained.  It has been 5,123 days since the billboard Judge Silberstein’s order.  Keystone Outdoor Advertising has accrued $768,450.00 in daily fines, never complied with the removal order and now seeks a reprieve from City Council to Court decisions and the law of the land.  Keystone obviously doesn’t care about protecting parks, playgrounds, or schools, but hopefully our elected City Council members will.  It would be a travesty of justice to pass legislation that would legitimize this billboard.

What you can do:

Attend/Testify at Council’s hearing – Tuesday June 7 at 10:00 AM.  City Hall Rm 400.

Let Council know that you oppose this legislation by clicking here.

Call Council Members on Rules Committee:

Chair William K. Greenlee- (215) 686-3446, (215) 686-3447

Vice Chair Mark Squilla- (215) 686-3458, (215) 686-3459

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

Blondell Reynolds Brown(215) 686-3438, (215) 686-3439

Kenyatta Johnson- (215) 686-3412, (215) 686-3413

Bobby Henon (sponsor)- (215) 686-3444, (215) 686-3445

Maria D. Quiñones Sanchez- (215) 686-3448, (215) 686-3449

Curtis Jones, Jr.- (215) 686-3416, (215) 686-3417

Al Taubenberger- (215) 686-3440, (215) 686-3441

 

My First Day!

By Carolyn Grace, University of Pennsylvania Communications Intern

Me (on the right) at this past year's Homecoming

My friend Nikki and I (on the right) at this past year’s Homecoming

Hey there, Philly!  My name is Carolyn Grace, and I am the newest Communications intern for Scenic Philadelphia.  I am in charge of posting content on the organization’s website, Twitter account, and Facebook page.

A little bit about myself — I am from the beautiful City of Brotherly Love itself!  Naturally, that makes me a die-hard Phillies fan, despite the fact that their season has been less than sub-par so far.  It also makes me a HUGE lover of the arts and culture.  Some of my favorite places to visit in the city are the Magic Gardens, the Barnes Foundation, the PMA, and WXPN radio station.  And then, of course, there’s my wonderful school located in the heart of West Philly 🙂

I am a rising junior at Penn with a major in American History.  I am also pursuing minors in French and Creative Writing.  At the end of August, I will be leaving to study abroad in Paris for 4 months!  I am beyond excited.

Counterparts at our Fall 2013 show!

Counterparts at our Fall 2013 show

Like the majority of students, I am very involved on campus.  I sing in a pop and jazz a cappella group called Counterparts (fun fact: R&B singer John Legend sang in this group while he was a student at Penn!).  I also write for a few of Penn’s print and online publications, including  34th Street magazine, Filament magazine, and Frankly Penn.  Finally, I am a proud sister of the Sigma Kappa sorority.

Me and some fellow SK sisters!

Some fellow SK sisters and I!

I had my first day at Scenic Philadelphia yesterday, and I’m already glad to be a part of the team.  I am one of two Penn summer work-study students here, and Mary and Phyllis have been extremely welcoming to both of us.  Plus, there’s already a ton of work for me to dive right into.  It looks like it’s going to be a busy summer!

Be sure to keep up with the Scenic Philly website and all of Scenic Philly’s social media platforms over the next few months.  You’ll be getting some really interesting content from me!  Let’s keep our city beautiful 🙂

Making Philadelphia Scenic…Again

By: Chris Croft – University of Pennsylvania Communications Intern

April, 2013 – Philadelphia is home to some of the most beautiful and unique parkland in the country: the Fairmount Park area and specifically Wissahickon Creek. This gorgeous natural landscape is accented by grand stone bridges, walls and staircases – many of which no longer serve a practical use, but still add character to the park. Unfortunately, in recent years these structures have fallen victim to vandals who have decided to mar the landscape with graffiti. These old structures not only contend with wear and tear from the elements, but are now covered in vandals’ “tags” and have transitioned from rustic landmarks to blatant eyesores. Luckily, local mural artist Zachary Bird of Smartwork Studio isn’t willing to stand for it. Using a technique called “faux painting”, Zack paints over top of the graffiti and makes the stone structures look as good as new. Much more visually appealing than the traditional white slab often painted over offensive tags, Zack is able to cover up spray paint, while blending his cover up with the color and texture of the surface he is painting on (see before and after pictures).

It’s ironic that Zack’s best work cannot be seen, as is the case with all faux painting – when done correctly, it can’t be detected. For now, his work has been limited to these relatively obscure stone structures in the park, but he has plans to make this a much bigger project. Zack states in his blog that he is in talks with Jane Golden of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program and the City to hopefully gain access to SEPTA and Con-rail bridges along the Schuylkill River and I-76. If he is able to get permission to do cover up faux paintings in these areas, his work will be seen by a much larger audience, and thus have a much greater impact on the visual state of Philadelphia.

Good Works From Around the City!

By: Marcel Garon – University of Pennsylvania Civic House Intern

April, 2013 – Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation (OARC) is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) community development corporation founded in 1983. Their mission is to create and stimulate sustainable economic development through innovative and creative use of available resources while improving the quality of life for residents in West Oak Lane and other neighborhoods throughout the Northwest section of Philadelphia.

Recently, OARC embarked on a substantial community development project, working with the City of Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority to acquire a nuisance nightclub which had been the scene of a lot of criminal activity. In addition to the presence of crime, there was also an unsightly billboard on the roof of the club. The property was a nuisance to the neighborhood, and the first thing people saw when they entered Philadelphia from Cheltenham Township, Montgomery County. In order to ameliorate the crime and blight issues, OARC successfully rehabilitated the building, and it now serves as their office. The pleasant, modern office building without a billboard constitutes a pleasing and welcoming gateway into Philadelphia. The rehabilitation of this specific property is part of a larger overall community development project, as it is directly across the street from a newly upgraded SEPTA depot.

Scenic Philadelphia makes it a point to commend organizations from around the city that are diligently working to advance healthy, vibrant and beautiful public spaces throughout all of Philadelphia. Way to go OARC!

Philadelphia Futures/Scenic Philadelphia Summer Enrichment Program

 

HACE group photoGroup shot- Nic Esposito speaker

By: Madeline Ranum – University of Pennsylvania Civic House Intern

July 2012 – “If I can make a change, you can make a change,” Zaire McLaughlin, a rising high school junior, told her audience with conviction. Zaire and nine peers spent their summer vacation developing proposals for community renewal in Philadelphia.

For the second year in a row, Scenic Philadelphia, formerly known as SCRUB, and Philadelphia Futures partnered to create a summer enrichment program for local high school students. Taking place throughout July, the course, entitled Renewing Philadelphia’s Future: Exploring Urban Planning and Renewal, was four weeks of intensive hands-on learning, concluding in a research paper and public speaking competition based on student propositions for community development.

The partnership between Scenic Philadelphia and Philadelphia Futures provided the students with a unique set of resources. While Scenic Philadelphia is a non-profit focused on reducing blight in Philadelphia through advocacy, education and legal action, Philadelphia Futures is an intensive college preparation program designed to provide high-performing but economically disadvantaged students with the resources to pursue their goals. With supplemental academic courses, personal mentorship, college guidance, and financial programs, Philadelphia Futures boasts a 98% rate of college enrollment for the students in their program.

The students grappled with some of Philadelphia’s most difficult planning issues, including the persistent presence of vacant lots and abandoned factories which tarnish neighborhoods and communities, and the history of “redlining” and its dire effects. Jennifer Reed, a long-time teacher at Philadelphia Futures, led the program and developed this year’s curriculum. A team of two interns and a teacher’s assistant supported her efforts. The students did not focus exclusively on blight, however; they also highlighted and celebrated the beauty of their city. Through field trips and guest speakers, the students learned to consider Philadelphia with a fresh perspective.

Guest speakers included Mary Tracy, Executive Director of Scenic Philadelphia; Maria Gonzalez, Director of HACE (Hispanic Association of Contractors and Enterprises); Stephanie Kindt, General Counsel for Scenic Philadelphia; Melissa Jest, Neighborhood Coordinator of the Preservation Alliance; Amy Hillier, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design  and Nic Esposito, writer and urban farmer. The students visited a thriving Community Development Corporation, learned how Philadelphia’s complex history can be used to revitalize the city, explored legal avenues to community development, and spoke with current community activists about ongoing projects. Exposure to a wide variety of Philadelphians working toward the revitalization of the city informed and inspired the students’ final project proposals.

The program culminated on July 25th with an event at the Philadelphia Bar Association. In a conference room with panoramic views of the city, filled with mentors, family, and contributors to the program, the students undertook what for many was their first public-speaking experience. Abdulaye Soumahoro, Samantha Walker, Wesley Zhao, and Zaire McLaughlin presented their proposals for community development before a panel of judges. From turning a vacant lot into a dance studio to converting an empty building into a place of worship to be shared by all religions in the community, the ideas were diverse, thoughtful and focused on community unification. Zaire McLaughlin won first prize and received a Nook Reader for her proposal to convert a vacant lot in her neighborhood into a community garden. Although only four students presented their proposals, all of the students participated in the event, some reading poetry about their communities and others sharing their reflections on the program.

Now that the second year of the program has come to a close, questions remain: what happens after the final presentations? Do the areas of blight that challenged the students remain unchanged? Brianna Zepp, participated in the Renewing Philadelphia’s Future program last summer and returned this year to work as a Teacher’s Assistant. Her proposal to turn a vacant lot in the Juniata neighborhood into a community center had won first prize before a panel of judges last summer but the vacant lot itself remained the same. With this year’s program wrapping up, Brianna chose to send her proposal to her local newspaper and to her government representative, City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sanchez. During the last week of the program, a beaming Brianna arrived in the classroom holding up a copy of the Juniata News with her entire proposal published and a meeting scheduled to speak with Councilwoman Quiñones-Sanchez. Though the vacant lot still sits empty, for Brianna, this is an incredible start.

The Renewing Philadelphia’s Future summer program has left the students with improved writing, researching, and public speaking skills. Yet the positive outcomes go beyond academic achievements. The class teaches students to see the world around them—both the beauty and the blight—and to know that they have the power to alter it. As this year’s winner Zaire McLaughlin said to sum up her proposal, “We can all do it together, one lot at a time.”

Paris Decreases Visual Pollution

June 28, 2011

Paris Decreases Visual Pollution

By Willa Grange  Civic House Intern-University of Pennsylvania

PlanPhilly

This past June, Paris City Council passed a new law restricting outdoor advertising.

The decision, which will likely put a dent in the sales of local advertising companies, will reduce current display space by 30%, limiting signage to a mere 8 square meters (86 square feet) as opposed to the much larger 12 square meters (129 square feet). Moreover, the new regulations stipulate that signs must be at least 25 meters (82 feet) apart and 50 meters (164 feet) away from any school location.

Of the current 2,300 outdoor panels, all of which are shared between three advertising companies-JCDecaux, ClearChannel, and CBS Outdoor-roughly 1,400 billboards will be taken down. As Mairie de Paris official Danièle Pourtaud commented in a recent article for Le Figaro, “This ruling is not anti-advertising, but responds to people’s wishes that advertising should be less intrusive.” Moreover, the restriction will be confined only to the city center.

 

Scenic Philadelphia Facilitates Summer Academic Program for High School Students

By: Willa Granger University of Pennsylvania Intern

August, 2011 –  This past July, Scenic Philadelphia partnered with Philadelphia Futures to create a three-week summer academic program for local high school students. Philadelphia Futures is a city-wide college success program that seeks to prepare low-income students for college. Through personalized college guidance, financial programs, and supplemental academic courses, Philadelphia Futures has helped 98% of its student body enroll in college. The intensive class, which culminated in a final research paper and PowerPoint competition, was taught by Sam Quinney, a Villanova grad who began his career in education through Teach for America.

Scenic Philadelphia

Tony Davis – University City High School/Philadelphia Futures Intern

May, 2011 – Hello, my name is Tony Davis, and I am currently a senior at University City High School. I am also a scholar in the Philadelphia Futures: Sponsor-A-Scholar program. This program is for college bound students who wish to continue to further their education and use it as a springboard for a meaningful career. The Sponsor-a Scholar program has been one of the most helpful programs and it has also introduced me to my internship at SCRUB. SCRUB, is a group of dedicated, hard-working citizens, fighting against urban blight in our community. They work day in and day out to develop ways to better the scenery of our city. One of their goals is to reduce or eliminate harmful advertisement in our city. I was chosen to become an intern for SCRUB entirely on my future career choice. I want to become an excellent architect and my goals as an architect is to build spectacular buildings and houses to improve the visuals of the US.

It is fact that an attractive city does well financially opposed to an unattractive one. A beautiful city is a city in which people want to live, work and play. We know that the billboards in our city however, are causing repulsion. Also, billboards are energy consumers. Their bright lights and vibrant colors may be dazzling, but they are draining tons of energy by the second. It is a fact that the average billboard uses the same amount of energy as 30 homes in the US.  In addition, because of the random billboards sprouting on property, property values have decreased. A recent study showed that in Philadelphia, if your home is within 500 feet of a billboard, it is worth $30,000 less than other nearby property. This will not do! Especially, since we are already facing difficult economic times.

I never noticed how unattractive and ubiquitous billboards are until I joined SCRUB so now I share a very similar goal as SCRUB.  I want to join their fight against urban blight. Earth is home to the most wonderful and amazing cities with beautiful vegetation within and surrounding our cities. Sadly, some of our greatest cities are being disfigured by billboards. Numerous companies have been cutting down trees and disrupting gorgeous scenery by placing their billboards extensively around the cities. Many citizens have begun to rise up and fight for billboard removal. In the U.S. we have successfully eliminated billboards in Maine, Vermont, Hawaii, and Alaska, some cities  have a limited the number of  digital billboards; our goal is not yet finished but we are progressing greatly. The U.S. is not the only victim of this “billboard plague”, Paris, Rome, Venice, and other international cities have the same issue. For example, in Venice a group of cultural experts are revolting against the Italian government. This is occurring because the government is using advertisement in front of or around historical architecture.  The city of Rome, which is considered one of the most beautiful cities with astonishing relics, is losing many of its majestic trees. Ambitiously, Rome has begun to tackle this billboard crisis. In addition, Paris has already passed a new law restricting outdoor advertising. This will hopefully reduce its “visual pollution” by 30%.

Billboards and other outdoor advertisements are unwanted and unhealthy to our world. This is why we are fighting; not just the U.S., but the rest of the world is having the same issue. We want what’s best for our society, so nothing will stop us of ridding our world of billboards. Average, everyday people are stepping up as well to prevent this billboard infection. We, SCRUB, have changed our name to “Scenic Philadelphia” because our new name is a statement and a sign that there is still hope and there are people out there who actually care about the beauty of our world.