Proposition G - Ban on New Billboards

Voter Guide
March 1, 2002
This measure appeared on the March 2002 San Francisco ballot.


What it does

Proposition G is an Initiative Ordinance which would prohibit the permitting and construction of new off-site general advertising signs in San Francisco.

Why it is on the ballot

Over the last few years, San Francisco has witnessed a dramatic influx of billboards, particularly the massive wallscapes that cover entire sides of buildings. Thanks to new technology, billboard companies can erect signs anywhere quickly, easily, and cheaply. The result is an estimated 1,500 billboards in San Francisco, or roughly 35 billboards per square mile.

San Francisco Beautiful, with SPUR's assistance, has proposed Proposition G in order to curb the proliferation of billboards in our city. Supervisors Peskin, McGoldrick, Leno, Ammiano, and Gonzalez have placed it on the March 2002 ballot. The SPUR Board of Directors voted to support a ban on new billboards at its November 2000 meeting. SPUR is, in fact, one of the sponsors of this measure.

Pros

Those who support Proposition G state:

  • It will protect the visual beauty of San Francisco. At a time when the city is clamoring for increased tourism, San Francisco's beauty should be protected by limiting the clutter and blight billboards impose.
  • It will protect our quality of life. The city is made up of a collection of charming and distinct neighborhoods and open spaces. Increasingly, residential areas are being invaded by billboards and detract from our quality of life. Quiet neighborhood shopping districts are spilling over with massive signs and the unique details that define the city's neighborhoods are marred by intrusive billboards.
  • It will limit further over-commercialization of our public space. For generations, visitors and residents alike have marveled at San Francisco's skylines, streetscapes, waterfronts and other scenic vistas. Unfortunately, these popular public spaces are being overrun by commercial messages that diminish their value by preventing people from enjoying them in an unobstructed way.

Cons

Those who oppose Proposition G state:

  • It will take jobs away from workers in the advertising industry (although present workers would not be affected).
  • It will prevent owners of future sites from receiving income from the lease of their property for billboards. (Again, present owners would not be affected)
  • In major cities around the world, billboards are an accepted part of the visual landscape and express the energy of the city's commercial activities.

SPUR's analysis

Billboards, otherwise known as off-site advertising signs, have saturated many parts of San Francisco. Many people believe the city is in danger of losing its special character as increasing numbers of billboards clutter streets and neighborhoods, making many parts of town indistinguishable from other places in America.

Six states and more than 600 cities and counties nationwide have prohibited new general advertising signs. While states including Hawaii, Oregon, and Vermont and cities such as San Jose, Denver, Seattle and Houston all prohibit new billboards, San Francisco's current planning codes still allow billboards in many areas of the city, including some of its most scenic byways and newest neighborhoods. Proposition G prohibits the future construction of new billboards, effectively ending this intrusion into these areas.

This proposed ordinance does not affect:

  • On-site business signs where businesses advertise on their own premises
  • Bus shelters, news kiosks, public bathroom advertising space, or advertising found in Muni or BART stations
  • Illegal signs which are the subject of recent legislation that imposes stiff daily fines on illegal billboards
  • Existing legal general advertising signs. It does, however, allow owners of existing billboards to relocate them through a conditional use process.

SPUR has historically been involved in efforts to limit the impact of billboards in San Francisco. A number of years ago, SPUR took part in a successful effort to change the Planning Code to restrict the size and location of billboards in the city. The current controls, however, are no longer adequate to address the proliferation of billboards. Proposition G will help San Francisco retain its unique visual character and protect the quality of the city's neighborhoods and public spaces.

SPUR recommends a "Yes" vote on Prop. G.