Supervisor wants to ban signs from S.F. poles

Large political and promotional signs, often left up for months or seen littering city streets, could soon be banned from The City’s light and utility poles.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced legislation Wednesday that would prohibit all signs larger than 8½ by 11 from going up on city-owned poles.

Peskin says the legislation would clean up The City and free up the Department of Public Works, the city department charged with enforcing posted sign laws.

City laws say all posted signs are supposed to be taken down within 70 days, and election or event signs are supposed to come down within 10 days after the election or event.

It’s challenging to track down violators of the sign laws, and supporters of the proposed legislation say it’s easier to prohibit the signs in the first place than enforcing the current sign laws.

“It’s high time we move into the 21st century,” Peskin said. “Cities all over the nation do this.”

Cities such as San Mateo and Daly City have no-signage rules for their public light and utility poles, except for the signs posted by city employees for official business.

The common “handbills,” such as “lost dog” or “piano lessons,” would still be permissible, according to the proposed legislation. The ban could go into effect 30 days following approval from the Board of Supervisors.

Isabel Wade, executive director of the Neighborhood Parks Council, said the legislation doesn’t go far enough. Wade said she favors a complete ban on hanging signs on the city poles and instead backs setting up kiosks located in key places around The City. Peskin said a previous proposal to implement a total ban on signs “didn't fly.”

Political consultant Mark Mosher said the proposed legislation works against “people’s free speech,” saying the country was founded by “political pamphleteers.”

He added that political signs on poles “are primarily used by the lowest-budget campaigns.”

Peskin disagreed, though.

“If you run a citywide campaign, signs are actually not cheap,” Peskin said.

Peskin downplayed the importance of the political signs that go up around election time, saying campaigning is more about doing door-to-door work than hanging up a lot of signs.

The legislation doesn’t address the content of the signs, only their size. Mosher said an 8½-by-11 political sign would be ineffective since no one would really be able to see them.

Jim Ross, a San Francisco political consultant, praised the proposed legislation.

“I don't think signs are all that appealing,” Ross said. “You get the poles that look like Christmas trees with all the signs at election time.”

jsabatini@examiner.com

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