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Scenic Philadelphia Mourns the Death of Gray Smith

The recent death of Gray Smith is a loss to us all. His passion and commitment to our built and natural environments will benefit our city for years to come.

Gray was a dedicated civic leader, preservationist, mentor, architect, and urban planner who used his knowledge and skills to benefit Philadelphia. Gray’s contributions to SCRUB were many. He provided expert testimony as an architect and a planner in many of our landmark cases including: Burholme Park, wallwraps at East Market Street, and at Callowhill Center on Vine Street, all of which preserved Philadelphia from further visual pollution. Gray Smith was a founding member of Scenic Philadelphia and supported our work for over 20 years.

When Councilman DiCicco introduced Bill 100013 in February 2010, amending Philadelphia’s billboard laws, Gray wrote to the Councilman,” Where did this awful thing come from?” Gray went on to warn, “You have not endeared yourself with the neighborhood groups with this outlandish proposal.” Gray could always be counted on not to mince words and to speak the truth.

Scenic Philadelphia mourns the loss of this great friend along with his guidance and wisdom.

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Citizens Needed to Testify on Bill 100013

Commercial Advertising Building Wraps and Digital Signs Coming to Market Street East

UPDATE: The May 12th hearing has been CANCELLED!

Hearing Scheduled for Wednesday, May 12, 2010 – 11:00AM – City Hall – Room 400
To testify contact the Sharon Ortiz or Linda Rios at 215- 686-3407.

For more information contact Scenic Philadelphia 215 731-1796.

Councilman DiCicco’s Outdoor Advertising Bill 100013 takes away the city’s ability to regulate signage and will allow massive outdoor advertising signs including LED digitals and rootop billboards along Market Street between 7th and 13th Street.

Visual Pollution
This Bill is counter to recommendations found in both the 2009 Strategic Plan for Market East and Center City District’s Planning for Growth on East Market Street written in 2007.

7thstbeforePhiladelphia’s rich historical and architectural character are irreplaceable assets,setting Philadelphia apart from “anyplace, USA. Our rich collection of architecture, history, and pedestrian friendly streetscapes attract tourists, new businesses and residents. Relinquishing our streetscape to corporate advertisers whose logos and commercial messages will dominate rooftoop billboards, towering wallwraps and glaring digital signs is an ineffective strategy to revitalize this corridor. We think that there can be a better way to achieve the goal of improving East Market Street.


7th Street before (above) and after (below) outdoor advertising
7thstafter1How this Affects You
Neighborhoods and communities throughout the city will be stripped of their rights to enforce billboard laws in order to benefit select landlords and the billboard industry. Revitalization of this corridor can be achieved without billboards.

TAKE ACTION: Attend the Hearing for Bill 100013 on May 12, 2010 at 11:00 AM.

  • Plan to testify. Contact the Councilman’s office (215-686-3458) and get on the list.
  • Write a letter and phone Members of the Committee on Rules: Councilmembers Greenlee, Reynolds-Brown, Kenney,Verna, Clarke, Miller and DiCicco. See “Contact Information” below for details.
  • Pass this on

Attend and Testify
Public Hearing will be held before the Rules Committee in City Hall, Room 400 on Wednesday, May 12th at 11:00.

13thstbefore 13thstafter
13th Street before and after outdoor advertising.

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Philadelphia’s Street Furniture Request for Proposals

Philadelphia issued a Request for Proposal (“RFP”) for a Street Furniture Program on March 25, 2010.
The RFP is designed to elicit bids from private companies to design, manufacture, install and maintain street furniture at no cost to the City while generating revenue for the City.

The street furniture included in this RFP are transit shelters, sheltered bike parking, arts, culture and public information panels (“info panels”) and corrals for boxes containing free newspapers.

The RFP also includes street objects designed, installed and maintained by the City such as the six transit head houses (entrances to underground transit on East Market Street between City Hall and 10th Street), solar powered compacting litter containers and recycling containers. Advertising may be installed on these items but the city will be responsible for design and maintenance.

Revenue and Costs
The City will receive an annual minimum fee, two bonus payments and a percentage of gross annual revenues.
This type of arrangement is often presented as a win-win situation because, done correctly, increasing the amount of bus shelters, bike parking and arts, culture and public information signage makes the City more livable while improving the City’s bottom line.

This RFP will dramatically increase the amount of legal outdoor advertising in the City of Philadelphia.
At a minimum, commercial advertising will be permitted on over 500 transit shelters (304 existing and approximately 250 new shelters at new locations), 113 information kiosks of which one side of the panel is reserved for commercial advertising, 48 advertising panels on 12 bike shelter structures (4 advertising panels per structure), and 6 transit headhouses. The RFP also invites advertising on honor box corrals, litter and recycling containers. (Read details of RFP)

  • The contract will last for 20 years.
  • The City will consider options based on increased revenue potential regarding the installation of digital advertising panels at any or all locations at any point during the 20 years. (Page 16 of the RFP). In other words, if the City feels that the financial rewards of permitting electronic signage is sufficient, it may allow digital advertising on any or all of the street furniture.
  • Real Time Information will be installed on 50 transit shelters.
  • Art, culture and public institution advertising will be available for reduced or no cost.
  • Designs will vary depending on the area: commercial, residential or historical.
  • Property owners adjacent to the proposed transit shelter will have input on location.

Public Involvement
The winning vendor will be required to present a “charette” or display of proposed designs for public viewing and comment. SCRUB will let you know when and where that will take place. City Council will vote to approve the final contract.

Digital Displays
Allowing the dazzling display of digitalized advertising on transit shelters and other signs within the public right of way is a new addition to the public furniture conversations. Distractions caused by electronic signs can jeopardize driver and pedestrian safety, compromise sustainability initiatives and detract from the city’s visual character. This clause should be removed from the final contract

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More Cities Ban Digital Billboards

By Larry Copeland, USA TODAY

stlouis2As the USA cracks down on texting while driving, more than a dozen cities around the nation have banned what some consider a growing external driving distraction: digital billboards.

Digital billboards change images every four to 10 seconds, flashing multiple messages from one or more advertisers on the same sign. Opponents such as John Regenbogen of Scenic Missouri deride them as “television on a stick.”

Several communities have banned digital billboards outright, the most recent being Denver earlier this month. Other places have put a moratorium on them pending a federal study on whether they distract drivers. At least two other cities and two states are studying moratoriums.

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Editorial: Roadside distractions

Philadelphia Inquirer
Posted on Mon, Mar. 22, 2010

atlanticcityWhen every stretch of highway in America looks like Times Square, it will be too late to worry about the driver distractions caused by electronic billboards.

The bright, gaze-riveting billboards are popping up in this region – notably, along the heavily trafficked Pennsylvania Turnpike in Bucks County. Their messages change every few seconds, making them a gold mine for outdoor ad companies, which can sell the same space several times over.

But what’s the impact on drivers whizzing by at speeds of 65 miles per hour and greater? Are they taking their eyes off the road, waiting for the next message to appear?

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At Market East, lights and signs aren’t enough

Philadelphia Inquirer: Opinion
Posted on Tue, Mar. 2, 2010

Councilman Frank DiCicco claims that the way to bring crowds back to Market East is to allow bigger and brighter commercial signs (“Putting pizzazz into Market East,” Feb. 26). Other than the obvious benefits to the billboard industry, there is no reason to expect economic benefits from more and larger signs.

The blocks east of the mall managed to right themselves with a few public space improvements. Frighteningly empty after dark a decade ago, those sidewalks are now full of people, in part because of the substantial increase in Center City residents who can walk there and because the surroundings are a bit of old Philadelphia.

Inga Saffron suggests that dramatic new lighting could help Philadelphians see the Gallery “in a whole new light.” Perhaps. But would it induce more people to shop there or simply be a drive-by experience?

Eighth and Market is among the most attractive redevelopment sites in the city. It’s near public transit, the Convention Center, and a 50-story luxury apartment tower. Failure to use this valuable tract should be seen as a municipal disgrace. Lights and signs won’t do it.

Lawrence Houstoun


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Scenic Philadelphia Awarded Grant for Internship Study of Digital Signage and Sustainability

The Samuel S. Fels Fund recently awarded 25 grants to Philadelphia nonprofit organizations to support internships for graduate students during the summer of 2010. These internships are full-time and take place over the summer. The interns are paid a stipend of $6,000. The internship position description and contact information for applicants are below.

The Samuel S. Fels Fund was founded in 1935 by Samuel S. Fels, a Philadelphia philanthropist. The Fund is a private foundation with a broad interest in community programs, education and the arts. Grants are restricted to organizations located in the city of Philadelphia or focused on local issues.

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Businessman agrees to take down Hollywood supergraphic

By David Zahniser – March 2, 2010

After spending three days in jail, a Pacific Palisades businessman agreed Monday to take down an eight-story supergraphic advertisement that had been wrapped around a prominent Hollywood office building just in time to be captured by cameras at next Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony down the street.

The legal agreement, crafted by Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich just as building owner Kayvan Setareh was scheduled to be arraigned in court, drew praise from City Council members, who said they had been looking for stronger action on illegal supergraphics.

Kayvan Setareh, 49, was arrested last week. He agrees to remove the massive sign at Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, and his bail will be reduced from $1 million to $100,000.

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Scenic Philadelphia Receives $25,000 Grant from the Philadelphia Foundation

March 2, 2010
Contact: Mary C. Tracy

Scenic Philadelphia Receives $25,000 Grant from the Philadelphia Foundation to Implement Communication and Marketing Plan.

Mary C. Tracy, the Executive Director of Scenic Philadelphia, the Public Voice for Public Space, is pleased to announce that Scenic Philadelphia has received a $25,000 grant from the John B. Gest Memorial Fund and the William J. McCahan 3rd Fund in Memory of Thomas C. McCahan and Florence M. McCahan to support Scenic Philadelphia’s Communication and Marketing program. Announcement of the grant was made by Andrew Swinney, President of the Foundation. The Foundation’s Board of Managers approved the grant on February 17, 2010.


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Changing Skyline: Putting Pizzazz into Market East


By Inga Saffron

What influences the public’s perception of Market East more: The mobs of rampaging teens who have descended on the Gallery mall over the last few weeks? Or the building’s gloomy fortress walls, which have weighed down Philadelphia’s traditional shopping street for well over three decades?

My vote goes to the blank walls.

It often feels as if the Gallery has been in decline ever since it opened in the late ’70s, as the nation’s first urban mall. Back then, Philadelphia could at least take satisfaction in having a retail amenity associated with the rising suburbs. But now, shopping malls everywhere are fighting for their lives, as anchoring department stores go the way of other general-interest pleasures, and Philadelphia finds itself stuck with an unattractive, underused box in the center of its downtown.

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Some Illumination on Lighted Signs Needed

By Daniel Rubin, Inquirer Columnist

Mary Tracy sent out a cyber call to arms recently. She was rallying the citizenry to blast Councilman Frank DiCicco with e-mails, letting him know that his bill to brighten the few dim blocks of East Market Street with fancy building wraps and digital displays was a disaster in waiting.

Is she wrong to envision Las Vegas by the Delaware? Tracy, head of Scenic Philadelphia, Public Voice for Public Space, has long had religion when it comes to billboards. She started as a young mother in Overbrook Farms, successfully battling Clear Channel over an illegal advertisement for some monster movie that scared the pants off her children.

Since then, the former schoolteacher has helped take down ads that line the city’s gateways, erase corporate graffiti, and peel off the tiny “8 sheets” that pock poor neighborhoods like broken windows – signals that no one much cares.

DiCicco’s bill would wrap ads around buildings that beg for restoration and renewal, she says. So much money would come from these signs, she says, that landlords would have no incentive to fill the interiors with people.

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Zoning Code Commission Community Meetings

The Zoning Code Commission released the draft first module of the new code at the ZCC meeting that took place on February 17, 2010.  Scenic Philadelphia is in the process of reviewing and drafting comments on Module 1, but it is vitally important that your voice is heard at the upcoming ZCC community meetings.  If you cannot make one of the meetings, the ZCC has also setup an online survey in order to solicit public feedback on Module 1. 

Community Meetings to review and provide input on The Draft New Zoning Code: Administration & Procedures

Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010
The Enterprise Center
4548 Market Street, 19139
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010
Northeast High School
1601 Cottman Avenue, 19111
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Tuesday, Mar. 2, 2010
Central High School
1700 W. Olney Avenue, 19141
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Thursday, Mar. 4, 2010
Fels Community Center
2407 S. Broad Street, 19148
6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

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Victory for Burholme Park: Commonwealth Upholds Orphans’ Court Decision

After months of deliberations, the  Court in the  case of In re Estate of Ryerss, 987 A.2d 1231 (Pa. Commw. Ct. , 2009) denied the City’s request to turn over 19.4 acres of parkland to Fox Chase Cancer Center for its expansion.

The unanimous decision of the seven member panel of judges dismissed the city’s arguments that continuing to use Burholme Park as parkland was not the most beneficial use, and would not best serve the public interest.

The court determined that the language of the law “focuses on whether the original use has ceased to serve the public interest and did not allow for a balancing of benefits.”

Continue reading Victory for Burholme Park: Commonwealth Upholds Orphans’ Court Decision

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Seminar on Digital Signs a Success

December 4, 2009 There are a growing number of towns and cities grappling with the pressure from the LED and billboard industry to erect digital signage.

Stacey Graham explains the legal aspects of regulating electronic signage.

Scenic Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association held a seminar on electronic signage. Speakers included: Jerry Wachtel, CPE, author of “Safety Impacts of Emerging Digital Display Technology”, Al Borden, FIAD, PLDA, Principal of The Lighting Practice and Stacey Graham, a Scenic Philadelphia attorney. Over 60 people attended the seminar including municipal planners, architects, attorneys, and Philadelphia City staff members.

With the advent of new technology in signage, many municipalities are behind in offering sign codes that address digital signage. From on-premise signs to large digital billboards, the impact of this technology is immense. Presenters addressed the actual technology of the new PECO lights, driver distraction and the health and safety aspects of increasing visual clutter on driver safety, and the legal aspects municipalities must keep in mind when writing legislation to regulate digital signage in Pennsylvania.