Mid-Market billboards quashed

Voters rejected the most contentious issue on the November ballot, a plan to dot mid-Market Street with billboards and advertisements in an effort to create a theater and arts district.

The failure of Proposition D means there will not be a formation of a special area that allows moving signs, electronic ads and illuminated billboards smaller than 500 square feet on the busy thoroughfare between Fifth and Seventh streets, an area known for its grimy streets, strip clubs and shuttered storefronts.

In 2002, more than 77 percent of voters approved a measure that prohibited new outdoor billboards citywide, but it allowed for exceptions with voter approval.

The main opponent of the proposition, San Francisco Beautiful, said Prop. D would actually increase blight in the area. The organization sees billboards as eyesores that would distract drivers and drain electricity.

The group also argued that allowing one area to be an exception to the law is the first step towards easing billboard restrictions citywide.

Owners of billboards in the area would have profited from the proceeds with 20 to 40 percent going toward arts-themed projects, including a ticket booth in nearby Hallidie Plaza, regular cleaning in the neighborhood and arts education for children and youth.

The measure’s main backer, David Addington, said allowing billboards that promote the arts could attract businesses to the neighborhood, eventually turning the area into the “Times Square of the West.”

Several city officials at different ends of the political spectrum threw their weight behind the issue and Addington threw his money at it as well.

In the early stages he pumped $190,000 into the measure, and then another $80,000 on Oct. 27, according to campaign filings.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com
 

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