More than half of the billboards and other outdoor advertising signs recently surveyed by city officials were found to be illegal, with just a fraction of those signs removed.
A local proposition passed in 2002 with the support of three-quarters of voters banned new outdoor advertising signs in The City. Signs installed before 2002 without a permit are also illegal under a law passed in 2006 by the Board of Supervisors.
Since enforcement of the rules began late last year, 164 signs have been checked by officials and 95 were ruled illegal, code enforcer Jonathan Purvis told planning commissioners last week.
“There are violations everywhere,” Purvis told The Examiner, “ranging from large freeway-oriented signs to small pedestrian-oriented signs in neighborhood commercial districts.”
The Planning Department last year created a list of nearly 1,500 outdoor advertising signs in The City, according to a recent report. Around 80 percent of the signs were identified by advertising companies; the rest by department employees who scoured The City over four months.
Most of the illegal signs were installed without a permit, Purvis said, while a handful violated permit conditions related to issues such as size and others lacked required information placards that list permit details.
Just 21 illegal signs have been removed, Purvis said. He said companies are given 45 days to respond to a notice of violation; they then can be fined up to $2,500 a day if they fail to fix or remove the illegal sign. A company must pay $3,400 to appeal a notice of violation against one of its signs.
The department has raised roughly $650,000 from sign registration fees from advertising companies to help fund its sign enforcement work, records show. Additionally, around $76,000 in late fees, fines, appealfees, lawsuit settlements and other penalties has been collected.
Some of the notices of violation were addressed to CBS Outdoor Executive Ryan Brooks, who has been nominated by Mayor Gavin Newsom to fill a spot on the Planning Commission left vacant after Newsom asked commission president Dwight Alexander to resign.
Brooks told a Board of Supervisors subcommittee last week that he will recuse himself from sign-related issues if he’s appointed later this month to the commission by the full board.
Court injunctions secured in December by five advertising companies, including CBS Outdoor and ClearChannel Outdoor, prevent The City from publishing its list of outdoor advertising signs, which attorneys for the companies argue contain trade secrets.
By the numbers
1,464: Advertising signs in The City
164: Signs checked by city at Feb. 15
69: Found to be legal
95: Found to be illegal
4: Found to violate permit
13: Found to lack identifying placard
Source: San Francisco Planning Department