Art Commission Approves Advertising Kiosks Despite Public Opposition

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By Brendan McDevitt, Scenic Philadelphia Intern

At a public hearing on November 1st the Philadelphia Art Commission voted 7-to-1 to grant approval for a private company to install 100 advertising kiosks on city sidewalks, despite objections from several neighborhood organizations and many residents. The kiosks still need approval from PennDOT, the agency responsible for ensuring Philadelphia’s compliance with federal outdoor advertising regulations which would apply to most of the streets where the kiosks are proposed.  Scenic Philadelphia will be coordinating with PennDOT and federal regulators to ensure that any proposed kiosks do not violate federal laws.

NYC sidewalk kiosks
Sidewalk kiosks in New York City have become hubs for loitering and illicit activities.

During the hearing the chairman of the Philadelphia Art Commission, Alan Greenberger, asked representatives from Intersection, an outdoor advertising firm, and the city’s Office of Transportation and Infrastructure Systems (OTIS) a very direct question: “What would you like us to do?” Unfortunately, the Art Commission gave the advertising firm and OTIS exactly what they came for. A motion for approval of the ‘Link’ advertising kiosks in Philadelphia was passed swiftly by a majority of the commission.

Intersection and OTIS proposed several possible sites for the kiosks on the sidewalks of wide streets, such as Market and Arch, as well as the narrow streets of Old City. Their presentation highlighted the free Wi-Fi, outreach to local businesses, public service announcements about civic events, and cell phone charging ports that the kiosks would bring to people, but failed to address many of the concerns members of the public and neighborhood groups expressed about the kiosks.  There was additional concern expressed by civic leaders about the lack of public notice and input on a proposal that would have a profound impact on the public space.

A representative from the Crosstown Coalition of thirty civic associations testified to the Art Commission that no one from OTIS or Intersection had reached out to their neighborhoods about these proposed kiosks.  These civic associations reached a unanimous decision that without any information they would not support the kiosks. A resident of Old City, Rob Kettell, frankly told the art commission that the kiosks would not fit in Old City,  explaining that the streets of Old City are too narrow and crowded to accommodate these 9-foot tall and 3-foot wide kiosks. He also felt that an environment with these continuously changing ads would be hazardous to pedestrians and drivers on Old City’s streets. Mr. Kettell said that the kiosks’ unsightly appearance would not look natural with Old City’s rustic and authentic appearance.

Scenic Philadelphia’s executive director, Mary Tracy, testified about the potential degradation these kiosks could have on Philadelphia’s historic appearance and character. Ms. Tracy said that the city needs to be aware of the numerous public nuisance issues the kiosks have led to in New York and asked the commission to consider the long-term impact that these kiosks may have on Philadelphia. She ended her testimony with an appeal to consider the impact that taking away public space would have on the people of Philadelphia.

The president of The Society Hill Civic Association, Roseanne Loesch, also testified to the art commission that her group was very concerned about the lack of public awareness and participation in the kiosk program approval process. She asked for public hearings regarding the kiosks, and posed a final question to the commission: why should private, for profit businesses be given public space for ads?

Only one member of the commission, painter Joe Laragione, found it disconcerting that of nearly 200 letters the commission received regarding the kiosk proposal, all but 3 were opposed to the proposal.  He remembered what other members of the commission seem to have forgotten: the purpose of art commissions is to steward public space on behalf of the public and to protect and promote the good visual character of the city’s streetscapes. Mr. Laragione’s stated that if such a large portion of people in Philadelphia did not want these kiosks, then they should not be approved. At this point art commission chair, Alan Greenberger, again asked Intersection what they wanted from the Philadelphia Art Commission. Intersection clearly stated this time what they came for: approval for the kiosks.  Despite Joe Langione’s sincere words and great public testimony, a motion for the approval of the kiosks was passed by the majority of the art commission.

Brendan McDevitt is a Temple University student with a keen interest in urban development and public relations. This was his first time attending an art commission hearing. 

Art Commission Set to Meet on This Wednesday 11/1 to Revisit Digital Advertising Kiosks’ Case at 9:30 AM: Public Urged to Attend

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By Brendan McDevitt, intern

Thank you to all the  residents of Philadelphia that wrote to the Art Commission about the advertising kiosks! Your voice plays a vital part of the city’s decision making process. For all people that have not had a chance to write to the Art Commission yet, Scenic Philadelphia still urges to do so since it is not too late!

Send a letter to the Art Commission, here! 

The Art Commission will reopen Intersection’s case for digital advertising kiosks this Wednesday, November 1st, at 1515 Arch StreetRoom 18029 on the Eighth Floor. The meeting opens at 9:30 AM, and Intersection’s case is first on the Art Commission’s agenda. Scenic Philadelphia asks any member of the public to come to this open meeting at 1515 Arch Street- Room 18029 to testify to the Art Commission on how these kiosks will affect you and your view of Philadelphia’s appearance! Your participation is so important to us and to your city! Scenic Philadelphia hopes to see you Wednesday morning!

Say no to commercial advertising kiosks on Philadelphia’s sidewalks

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By Brendan McDevitt, intern

The sidewalks of Philadelphia may soon be marred with the addition of hulking advertising kiosks if an advertising company’s proposal is approved by city officials. The Philadelphia Art Commission has given conceptual approval for the kiosks, and it is important that they hear from the public before they give final approval for the kiosks.  Click here to let city officials know you don’t want these kiosks on our city’s sidewalks.

NYC sidewalk kiosks
Sidewalk kiosks in New York City have become hubs for loitering and illicit activities.

Rising out of the ground like unsightly pillars, similar kiosks have already caused a stir in New York City, where they were installed in January of 2016. Kiosk operators tout supposed public benefits of the structures, including free public WiFi, phone charging stations, and a built-in-tablet that can used to browse the internet, but the majority of the structure is composed of LED screens that flash distracting advertisements to both pedestrians and drivers. Aside from the kiosks being detrimental to the unique and authentic appearance of Philadelphia, there are several issues that have emerged with these kiosks in New York City that will surely arise in Philadelphia if they are approved by the Art Commission.

New York City officials began receiving complaints about the kiosks shortly after their installation.  The kiosks quickly became gathering places for people looking to make use the free Wifi, internet access and phone charging ports.  Small encampments began to grow around the kiosks, with people dragging newspaper vending boxes, discarded furniture and other objects to the kiosks to act as impromptu furniture from which to use the kiosks for hours at a time.  City officials in New York like Bronx Borough President Rubèn Dìaz have raised concerns about these people creating personal spaces for themselves by the kiosks where drugs and alcohol are consumed publicly.

Such uses of the kiosks are creating major public nuisances for city residents like Judith Barnes, a resident of the Cobble Hill neighborhood in Brooklyn, who told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that a “massive” kiosk was installed just a few feet from her front window. She described the new kiosks as an eyesore in her neighborhood that creates light and noise pollution issues for she and her neighbors. Ms. Barnes is also worried about people attracted to the kiosk congregating on the sidewalk in front of her home, and of the potential for personal privacy invasion since the kiosks have built in cameras.  New York City government provided no opportunity to be a part of the decision-making process about these kiosks before installing them in neighborhoods, a move that is being mirrored by the Philadelphia officials.

Intersection, the advertising firm behind the kiosks in New York and potential kiosks in Philadelphia, is preparing a mock kiosk for the Philadelphia Art Commission. If they receive the Art Commission’s approval for the kiosks then Philadelphia will soon be oversaturated with distracting and unsightly advertisements on almost every city block in Center City, not to mention the public nuisance risks posed by the kiosks.  It is important that you contact the Art Commission today to let them know you disapprove of this proposal for commercial advertising kiosks on Philadelphia’s city streets.

 

The Spring Garden Bridge Billboard Goes Dark and Reveals a Dark Side of the Billboard Industry

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Amidst a push to light up our city with digital advertising, one digital sign visible from the Schuylkill Expressway and the Spring Garden Bridge sits dark.  Thanks to the Department of License & Inspections, Streets Department, and Law Department’s combined enforcement efforts, the billboard company’s attempt to circumvent the law was caught and sign went dark.

Dark digital sign at the Spring Garden Bridge and I-76

SpringGardenBridgeTakeDown2

Conduit (before) removal on March 1, 2017

Spring Garden Bridge Wall (after)
now features a beautiful mural instead of the previous unsightly and illegal conduit.

The Spring Garden sign is owned by Steen Outdoor Advertising and sits on Conrail/Norfolk Southern railroad property. (It is common of many non-conforming signs in Philadelphia to be located on railroad property) This particular sign does not comply with the Federal Highway Beautification Act due to its proximity to other signs.  The sign also does not conform to the Philadelphia City code due to:

  • Proximity to the Schuylkill River –  City Code 14-905 (2)
  • Proximity to the Schuylkill Expressway ramps – City Code 14-905 (10)

Philadelphia allowed the non-conforming Spring Garden bridge billboard to convert to digital based on a now changed memo from Law Department.  However, no structural changes were allowed to be made to the billboard.  When applying for the permit to change the sign from static to digital, Steen testified that no structural or electrical changes to the non-conforming billboard would be needed to convert the existing billboard to digital.

Contrary to the testimony, when the billboard changed from static to digital cement footings and additional poles were added to secure the sign.   Even worse, the billboard company encroached on public property in making the sign changes.  Steen added electrical conduits and a private meter to the new Spring Garden bridge, which is part of a recent $6.6 million PennDot rehabilitation project.  Thus, the Spring Garden sign violated another city code 14-905 (14):

A prohibited sign shall not be reconstructed if for any reason it becomes necessary to replace the entire sign, including the sign face, the farm and any supporting mechanism.

Sign in 2011 before changes

Sign in 2011 before changes

Spring Garden Bridge - March 13, 2014

Sign in 2014 after structural changes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stories of circumvention, deception, and law breaking by the Philadelphia billboard industry are common.  We are thankful to have city leaders are willing to enforce the law and hold billboard companies accountable for their actions.

Finally, we are thankful for the public who inform us of suspicious activity surrounding billboards.  The darkening of the Spring Garden sign started with a complaint filed by Scenic Philadelphia in response to a Powelton Village neighbor’s report.  With your help we can have more signs go dark and/or come down!

 

 

SpringGardenWires

Before (top) and after (bottom) removal of wires and conduit on Spring Garden Bridge

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New Spring Garden Street Bridge beautification (March 8, 2017)

 

 

Help Stop the PPA’s Push to Put Billboards on Neighborhood Lots

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On January 4th 2017 a proposal was brought before the Art Commission to erect a new billboard on the Parking Authority parking lot located at 1339 S. 12th Street, one of five billboards PPA plans to erect on its lots located around the city.

Proposed PPA lots

Proposed PPA lots

Sign Specifications Five Proposed PPA Signs Neighborhoods Effected
  • Structure height: 19’6”
  • Sign width: 13’
  • Sign height: 7’
  • For reference the Fire Station next to the lot is 16’
  1. 1900 Callowhill St
  2. 738 S 7th St
  3. 1012 E. Passyunk Ave
  4. 1339 S. 12th St
  5. 1628 E. Passyunk Ave
  • Greater Art Museum Area
  • Bella Vista
  • Queen Village
  • Passyunk

 

PPA_AlcoholSign

This prohibited billboard, across was removed from the PPA parking lot at 1339 S.12th across from Colombus Square. Neighbors oppose a proposal to erect new larger billboard .

These proposals are the result of the little known 2013 amendment made by City Council exempting municipal properties from our billboard laws 14-905 (15) (c). PPA  proposes to erect these billboards within 660 feet of a parks, schools, and playgrounds which are prohibited areas 14-905 (10) (n) and (o).  If approved by the Art Commission, PPA’s proposal will  turn billboard law on its head, allowing billboards near homes, schools, parks and playgrounds throughout the city.

 

Write to the Planning Commission today and request that the regulations comply with all zoning regulations governing accessory and non-accessory signs.

PPA rendering of proposed billboard is misleading. The actual billboard will be 2 stories high.

PPA rendering of proposed billboard is misleading. The actual billboard will be 2 stories high.

Thanks to Your Support, Art Commission Takes a Stand for Public Art

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On January 4, 2017, the Art Commission heard a proposal by Intersection and City of Philadelphia to deaccession (aka take down, sell, or possibly repurpose) the public art bus shelters on Chestnut Street from 7th to 17th Street.  Scenic Philadelphia President Mary Tracy presented emails from the public as part of a testimony against the removal of the public art displays on 11 bus shelters.

Chestnut Public Art Shelter

The proposal involves the public art bus shelters being replaced by new shelters with seating, lighting, and digital advertising like the one below.  The city officials and Intersection argued that the art shelters must be replaced, cannot be repaired, and the public art could not be preserved.  The Art Commission strongly spoke out against the removal of the public art in replace of ads, especially since no feasibility study was done regarding the cost of repairing, rather than replacing the art shelters.  Further, given that the public art shelters account for only 11 of the 600 bus shelters in the Intersection contract, the Art Commission disregarded Intersection’s claim that replacing the art shelters with ad shelters is necessary to finance the cost of the contract.

new-septa-bus-shelter-nutter-940x540

Intersection and the city withdrew today’s proposal and agreed to develop a preservation feasibility study and meet with a sub-committee of the Art Commission to develop a plan.  The public comment emails presented by Scenic Philadelphia helped strengthen the arguments made against today’s proposal.  It makes a critical difference when the Art Commission hears from the public.  The heartfelt emails describing how important these public art displays are to Philadelphia and its citizens resonated with the Art Commission, who echoed your sentiments.  Thank you for helping us be a public voice for public space!

Feel free to send the Art Commission a thank you (artcommission@phila.gov).

Less Art More Advertising?

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On January 4th, the Art Commission will vote to approve deaccession of Pablo Tauler public art on bus shelters along Chestnut Street in Center City between 7th and 17th street.  The bus shelter public art is part of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority (PRA) Percent for Art program.  The program requires developers who are building on land acquired and assembled by the PRA to dedicate at least one percent of the total building construction costs toward the commissioning of original, site-specific works of art.

Septa will replace the art bus shelters with new shelters and commercial advertising space, further deteriorating the quality of Philadelphia’s streetscape and public space. Sacrificing public art for commercial advertising space is another example of city officials devaluing our public space.  Join us at the Art Commission meeting on January 4th at 9:30am at 1515 Arch St on the 18th floor where we will be a public voice for public space or send email to the Art Commission to voice your opinion – artcommission@phila.gov
Philadelphia Bus ShelterAlso on the agenda is an outdoor advertising display proposal for 1339 South 12th Street on a PPA parking lot.  The lot is directly across from a park, surrounded by residences, and is another example of the continued encroachment of advertisements on public space as a result of a bill passed in May 2013 that allows ads on city-owned property.

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

Flashing Lights and Conflicting Interests on Market East

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Philadelphia is not New York.  Market East is not Times Square.  As architecture critic Igna Saffron explains, Philadelphia’s attempts to make the Market East Corridor what it is not have resulted in conflicting commercial and residential interests as well as the city losing control of its digital sign authority.

Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia signage proposal | Planning Commission, Sept. 2015

Fashion Outlets of Philadelphia signage proposal | Planning Commission, Sept. 2015

 

 

 

Act now to stop billboards on Philadelphia’s public buildings

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A billboard company wants to put advertising signs like this one on Philadelphia's public buildings.

A billboard company wants to put advertising signs like this one on Philadelphia’s public buildings.

A billboard company is lobbying Philadelphia officials to allow huge billboards to be hung on the sides of municipal buildings right in the middle of Center City.  The preliminary proposal from NJ-based Interstate Outdoor Advertising would see 3 multi-story advertisements attached to the Municipal Services Building at 1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd. and 2 on the One Parkway Building at 1515 Arch Street.

This proposal is the latest and most outrageous, incursion of commercial advertising into the public space.   These billboards would literally be covering up publicly owned buildings, which is a sad, terrible thing.  In recent years City Council has allowed outdoor advertising on news kiosks, SEPTA subway entrances, historic Market Street buildings and elsewhere.  Outdoor advertising is so out of control in the city that PennDOT recently revoked Philadelphia’s ability to regulate billboards in the city.

It is important that you speak up now to tell the Arts Commission and City Council that you do not want public buildings covered in billboards.  The intrinsic character of historic Philadelphia is being lost to rampant outdoor advertising, and this proposal would only further erode the visual environment of the country’s only World-Heritage City.

Take Action:  Use the link below to tell Arts Commission members, Councilmembers and Mayor Kenney that you oppose billboards on Philadelphia’s public buildings.  Simply fill in your contact information and hit submit and your letter will be delivered!  We strongly encourage you to personalize the message to make it even more impactful. 

Click to tell Philadelphia city officials that you oppose billboards on public buildings. 

Market East Sign District Placed Under State Control

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The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has turned over responsibility of all federal and primary aid highways in Philadelphia to PennDOT. Earlier this year, an initial move revoking Philadephia’s certification and returning to state control had exempted the so-called “Market Street East Sign District,” but the new FHWA announcement transfers all control to PennDOT.

For the past four decades Philadelphia was allowed by the State to enforce the provisions of the federal Highway Beautification Act (HBA) within city limits. The Act requires Pennsylvania to maintain control of outdoor advertising and ensure protection of the public’s investment in roadways, promote driver safety, and preserve the scenic beauty of the our roadways. Failure to uphold the Act can result in a penalty of a 10 percent loss in the state’s federal highway funding.

When Philadelphia lost the privilege to regulate signage in April 2015, the “Market Street East Sign District” was initially exempted from state control. But after further review and public input, FHWA made the decision to further revoke Philadelphia’s control over Market Street East as well.

“To date Philadelphia has lacked the resources and the political will to adequately control outdoor advertising and protect our streetscapes from visual blight,” said Mary Tracy, president of Scenic Philadelphia

“Market Street East is a key part of our downtown and deserves the City’s best consideration,” Tracy continued. “it also deserves the protections included in the Highway Beautification Act. The Federal Highway Administration’s decision to transfer control, including Market Street East, back to the state is the right move for the citizens of Philadelphia.”

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

 

PennDOT Takes Over Control of Philadelphia’s Outdoor Advertising

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Scenic Philadelphia recently attended a briefing in Harrisburg regarding  PennDOT’s transition plan for the state’s takeover of billboard control in Philadelphia which was approved by the Federal Highway Administration on December 3rd.

In April the state revoked Philadelphia’s Outdoor Advertising Certification after the City Council passed legislation allowing towering 3-D billboard structures in Center City.

urban-experiential-display-screenshot-from-promotional-video-catalyst-outdoor.0.87.961.453.752.355.c

State control will prevent signs like this from being built in Center City.

PennDOT immediately issued a moratorium on alterations to city billboards until new governing rules could be established. PennDOT is currently creating an inventory of city billboards, which they expect to complete by July 1. All signs on that inventory must be properly permitted with PennDOT. If a sign is found to be unlawful removal action will be taken within 30 days. This could result in a number of signs coming down and be a great boost to our city’s visual character!

There are several other positive aspects to PennDOT’s takeover, but the bottom line is that billboards in Philadelphia will be subject to much more serious scrutiny, and violations dealt with much more quickly than they were under city control.

Click here to read the Federal Highway Administrator’s Letter of Agreement.

This change is a huge step forward for those of us who care about how billboard blight negatively impacts our city, and Scenic Philadelphia has been pushing for this change for nearly 20 years. We are ecstatic about what this means for our city’s visual environment and we are grateful for the support of friends like you who make our work possible.

D.C. events kick off 50th anniversary year of national beautification policies

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Mary Tracy, executive director of Scenic Philadelphia and president of Scenic America, recently helped mark the start of the 50th anniversary year of the Highway Beautification Act and the White House Conference on Natural Beauty by leading a series of events in Washington, D.C.

Mary Tracy with Lucinda Robb, granddaughter of President and Lady Bird Johnson
Mary Tracy with Lucinda Robb, granddaughter of President and Lady Bird Johnson

On October 21 more than 130 guests filled the Anderson House at the Society of the Cincinnati for a tribute to scenic visionaries President and Lady Bird Johnson and Laurance S. Rockefeller. The Johnson family was represented by Lynda Bird Johnson Robb and Lucinda Robb, daughter and granddaughter, respectively, of President and Lady Bird Johnson, and the Rockefeller family was represented by Larry Rockefeller, son of Laurance S. Rockefeller.

The evening’s keynote speaker was Senator Tom Udall. His father Stewart Udall was Secretary of the Interior during the Johnson administration and played a pivotal role in promoting the scenic conservation policies proposed by President and Lady Bird Johnson.  Click here to read Senator Udall’s remarks in full.

farr johnson collage
Top: Senator Fred Farr and Lady Bird Johnson in 1966.  Bottom: Congressman Sam Farr and Luci Baines Johnson in 2015

Among the public officials present at the tribute was Congressman Sam Farr, who two days earlier joined Luci Baines Johnson, daughter of President and Lady Bird Johnson, at Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, California for a ceremony to celebrate the 50th anniversary of passage of the Highway Beautification Act.  Nearly fifty years earlier at the same site, Congressman Farr’s father, Senator Fred Farr, joined Lady Bird Johnson to dedicate Highway 1 as California’s first scenic highway.

“Passing the Highway Beautification Act was an historic moment in the environmental movement and I am proud of the Central Coast’s role in creating the first State Scenic Highway,” said Congressman Farr. “I want to thank Luci Baines Johnson for coming to Bixby Bridge to celebrate our parents’ legacy and the legacy of California’s scenic Highway 1.”

On October 22, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Highway Beautification Act, representatives of more than thirty Scenic America affiliates and allied organizations from all over the country packed the National Press Club for a symposium on the current state and future of scenic conservation.

Henry L Diamond speaking about his experience as conference manager

The program began with a video of Henry L. Diamond speaking about his experience as Executive Director of the 1965 White House Conference on Natural Beauty, an unprecedented event in which more than 800 people came to Washington at the request of President Johnson to convey to him personally what they thought their country should look like.  The President asked Laurance S. Rockefeller to chair the conference and Mr. Rockefeller asked Mr. Diamond take charge of the day-to-day organizing of the event.  Click here to watch Mr. Diamond discuss his recollections of the 1965 conference.

White Paper cover image

With the spirit of the earlier conference still in the air, Scenic America unveiled a working draft of its new white paper titled Taking the Long View: A Proposal for Realizing America the Beautiful.

The work proposes bold but achievable solutions for fixing America’s scenic environment in five key areas: Preserving Community Character, Honoring Parks and Open Spaces, Celebrating Byways and Gateways, Undergrounding Overhead Wires and Promoting Beautiful Highways.  Click here to download a working draft of Taking the Long View.

Cokie Roberts speaks at Scenic America symposium

Featured luncheon speaker Cokie Roberts captivated the audience with personal stories of her family’s friendship with the Johnsons and of Lady Bird’s work to beautify the nation’s capital.  Roberts said that Mrs. Johnson’s energy, enthusiasm and ability to get things done in a subtle but persistent manner were remarkable.  Click here to watch a brief video of Ms. Roberts speaking about Lady Bird’s legacy.

The afternoon session included presentations from representatives of allied organizations including the Trust for Public Land, the American Planning Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers, Scenic Hudson, the Garden Club of America, Saving Historic Roads, the American Society of Landscape Architects and Scenic Toronto. There was much discussion of how our organizations can better work together to advance the scenic conservation movement.

Alexander Udall collage

Also on October 22 a joint resolution was introduced on the floor of the U.S. Senate by U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. The resolution unanimously passed the Senate. Click here for remarks by Senators Alexander and Udall on the resolution. Click here for the full text of the resolution.

Cspan screen cap

Scenic America’s conference and white paper are already making an impact with policy makers and leaders in the scenic conservation world.

During debate on the transportation bill on the House floor on November 4, 2015, Rep. Janice Hahn (D-CA) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced an amendment to require a federal study on the undergrounding of utility wires.

Both Congresswoman Hahn and Congressman Cicilline complimented and said they were inspired by the work of Scenic America to beautify the nation’s roadsides and landscapes. The amendment was ultimately withdrawn due to opposition from Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), who said he believes in the benefits of undergrounding but didn’t think the transportation bill was the appropriate place for it.

Watch the debate on the Hahn/Cicilline amendment here.

Scenic Philadelphia and Scenic America will continue working hard in the year ahead to uphold the ideals of the Johnsons, Rockefellers and other scenic visionaries who set the foundation years ago for America the Beautiful as we know her today.

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 the Facebook page updates on the campaign.

 

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.

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 🙂

Your Letters Worked!

Bill No 130817 (North Broad Street Billboard Bill): The Committee on Rules Hearing was initially scheduled for February 12th.  The hearing was cancelled, and the bill is currently on hold.

Rendering of North Broad Billboard Blvd starting at City Hall & ending at Lehigh 2.8 miles away.

Rendering of North Broad Billboard Blvd starting at City Hall & ending at Lehigh 2.8 miles away.

Bill No 130694 (School Advertising):  This legislation passed out of Rules Committee but has now been removed from City Council’s calendar.

Rendering of potential impact of School Advertising Bill

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!

Digital signs in the Parkway

 Logan Square
Logan Square Neighborhood Association Board voted to oppose the application for a variance allowing Franklin Institute to replace two existing static accessory signs with flashing, intermittent lighting. The proposed signs need a variance due to their location in a residential area prohibiting signs with intermittent lighting. The signs also are within 200 feet of the Parkway which strictly prohibits flashing, digital signage.

400 North 5th

 Three members of Philadelphia’s Zoning Board of Adjustment denied Philadelphia citizens the right to speak to the board about the harmful impact of bright flashing and illegal digital billboards on their living spaces. Residents living in Old City, Society Hill and Callowhill came to testify against the bright flashing advertisements intruding into their living rooms, bedrooms and street views all day and night with up to 14,400 flashing messages a day!

 

Attendees were also prepared to speak about the impact of these nuisance billboards on Independence National Historic Park where they can be seen towering from the rooftop of the Cube Storage Warehouse.

National Park Superintendent, Cynthia MacLeod wrote a letter to the Board stating that the digital billboards hovering near the Park, violate the spirit of the Philadelphia Code which was written “to preserve the historical character of a national shrine and the the birthplace of our nation’s capitol”. She added that the flashing sign devalues the experience of over 5 million visitors a year who come to Philadelphia to enjoy the historical character of this World Heritage Site.

Unfortunately this letter was not allowed in the record nor was anyone allowed to speak about the merits of the appeal.   In a 3-1 vote, zoning board chair Lynette Brown-Sow,  Carol Tinari and Sam Statten quashed the appeal and refused to hear from local residents regarding the impact of the billboards on their properties and quality of life. Newly appointed board member Greg Pastore was the only vote in favor of the community.  Marty Bednarek left the room before the final vote was taken.

 Please send an email to the Mayor, ZBA and Philadelphia’s Parks and Recreation 

Digital Signage Veto — A Victory and Future Battles

Mayor Nutter veto

Veto of Councilman Squilla’s Digital Signage Bill  by Rosanne Loesch

 

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.)

But the war against visual pollution in our city is not over. As Philadelphia Inquirer author writes, “But beyond the success in this one instance is the overriding question of whether we Philadelphians are going to let digital signs take over our historic city. (Read Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer February 12, 2013.) Billboard companies are moving aggressively to convert existing billboards to digital signs and expand into new areas where billboards were previously prohibited. For Philadelphia, a city where commercial and residential districts exist cheek by the jowl, the far-traveling, intense, pulsating light of digital signs could significantly affect the quality of life for residents and the look of this historic city.”

Click here to read the full story!

Report: City flouts highway billboard regulations

ANGELO FICHERA, Daily News Staff Writer
Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 9:13 PM

PHILLY HAS FAILED to follow federal, state and city laws for billboards, a report released Wednesday says.

The report by Scenic Philadelphia states that many illegal billboards along federally funded highways in the city, listed in a 2006 Department of Transportation inventory, are still there. The report also cites additional violations.

It warns that the state risks losing 10 percent of its federal highway funding as a result.

Authored by University of Pennsylvania master’s-degree candidate Sarah Richards, who obtained a grant for the study, the report focuses on 183 billboard structures, sporting 331 sign faces, along I-95, the Vine Expressway and the Schuylkill Expressway. The report says that only 18 percent of the billboards in the study complied with all regulations and had valid permits.

Click Here to read the article

Philadelphia’s public spaces for sale by owner? – 1/28/13

Legal Intelligencer Article
Stephanie Kindt – Scenic Philadelphia Staff Attorney
and Frances Ryan – Scenic Philadelphia

Over the past six months, Philadelphia City Council has proposed a myriad of bills that would place advertisements in our public spaces, e.g. on school buses, on newsstands, entire sides of buildings facing historic districts, on municipal property citywide, even legalizing the small posters plaguing our neighborhoods (“We buy ugly houses!”). Several of the proposed bills relate to digital signage (electronically changing digital message boards utilizing LED technology).

Click Here to read more

Philly Greenfest 2012

2Greenfest_2012Sept. 9, 2012 – Greenfest Philly is the largest environmental festival in the Philadelphia area. With over 100 exhibitors and vendors, Greenfest is the place to learn about living sustainably while having fun! This event has something for everyone: shopping for local green wares, great food, live music, live demonstrations, kid-friendly activities, and more.

6Greenfest_2012 1Greenfest_2012

Scenic Philadelphia looks beyond billboards – 9/10/12

PlanPhilly Article

For the last three years, Mary Tracy has been wearing two hats, one as president of Scenic America and one as executive director of Philadelphia-based SCRUB, the Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight. Besides launching her on a loop-de-loop schedule of Amtrak rides back and forth to Washington, D.C. the gig has heightened her already razor-sharp sense of mission.

Click here to read more.

Swedish Study Shows Digital Billboards Distract Drivers

 

A new study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention 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 study, conducted by researchers at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute and funded by the Swedish Transport Administration, found that drivers looked at digital billboards significantly longer than they did at other signs on the same stretch of road, with the digital signs often taking a driver’s eyes off the road for more than two seconds.

A well-regarded 2006 study by Virginia Tech 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 percent of all crashes involved driver inattention just prior to (within 3 seconds) of the crash.

The Swedish study’s authors reasoned 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.

The Swedish government had given temporary authorization to erect digital billboards in 2009, but as a result of this and related studies the government ordered the removal of all digital billboards.  Meanwhile in the United States these signs continue to go up at a rapid pace despite a growing body of evidence suggesting they pose a threat to traffic safety.

Click here to access the study

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.”

Billboard City: Part Two – 6/9/12

Metropolis Report

Steen Outdoor Advertising was able to get an over-the-counter L&I permit to convert a billboard outside Peter Kendierski’s loft because Philadelphia’s current zoning code, which strictly regulating neon lights and marquees, actually predates the invention of digital displays. Other companies have rushed to convert signs in the past year, hoping to slip permitting past neighbor’sgroups while the approval process is still as easy as waiting in line at L&I.

Click here to read more.

Billboard City: Part One – 6/9/12

Metropolis Report

When Peter Kendierski started renting a loft apartment at 310 N. 11th Street, he was well aware that his new living room’s stunning views of the Philadelphia skyline would be partially obscured by an unfortunately placed billboard on nearby Vine Street. It would be a hard fact to ignore; the billboard is massive.

Click here to read more

SCRUB now Scenic Philadelphia

SCRUB, the public voice for public space, has changed its name to Scenic Philadelphia. The group was founded in 1990 as the Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight, a grassroots coalition aimed at stopping the proliferation of billboards in Philadelphia. Since its inception, SCRUB has been responsible for the removal of 1000 illegal billboards in the city, and its legal volunteers have represented community organizations and local taxpayers in 40 court appeals.

Click here to read more.

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.

Safety Impacts of the Emerging Digital Display Technology for Outdoor Advertising Signs

The objective of this study was to develop guidance for State Departments of Transportation and other highway operating agencies with respect to the safety implications of digital display technology being increasingly used for outdoor advertising signs.  This groundbreaking report found evidence that drivers look longer at digital signs than they do at static billboards, and that glances away from the road of two seconds or more greatly increase the risk of a crash or near-crash.

Click Here to read the report

Critical Review of Reports Issued by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America

July 2007 saw the release of two industry-sponsored studies which concluded that digital billboards are no more likely to cause traffic accidents than conventional billboards. The billboard industry has since cited the studies numerous times as evidence that the proliferation of digital billboards poses no safety threat to the motoring public.  Now, an objective, expert analysis of the studies has been prepared for the Maryland State Highway Administration by Jerry Wachtel, a highly regarded traffic safety expert. His report is extremely critical of the conclusions and methodology of both studies and effectively debunks them.

Click Here to read the Report

Baker Study

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) contracted with Michael Baker Jr., Inc. (Baker) to inventory and map off-premise outdoor advertising devices (OAD) within 660 feet of the nearest edge of right-of-way of Interstate and Federal Aid-Primary highways in the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The inventory was conducted in relation to compliance with the Federal Highway Beautification Act and Pennsylvania Outdoor Advertising Control Act. This project was broken down into three main components: OAD inventory, permit research and conformance analysis.

Click Here to access the study.