Times of San Diego "Opinion: Digital Kiosks Are First Step to Blighting San Diego with Ad Billboards"
By Pamela Wilson. Excerpted from Times of San Diego. Read the full version online at timesofsandiego.com.
Mayor Todd Gloria was a councilmember in 2013 when the Land Use and Housing Committee rejected a developer’s bid to demolish sign limits by draping downtown with nearly 100 building wraps and other ad media, including kiosks like those now envisioned. Now the Mayor has abandoned his past defense of our city’s distinct character, using his power under the strong mayor system to sidestep transparent review of this drastic zoning exception. Four no votes at the June 6 council meeting are required to prevent San Diego from becoming just another ad-blighted city.
Rumors are rampant at City Hall that the ad screens are just the tip of the iceberg. Next will be a wholesale dismantlement of sign limits — so expect wraps, digital billboards, and other visual litter in the near future. This explains why unprecedented exceptions to sign limits are proposed for the paltry sum of about $600,000 in total revenue per year for the general fund. There is no plausible motive other than to incrementally erode our sign limits by auctioning our field of vision to the highest bidder.
Doing so will brand our elected council as less progressive than appointed Port Commissioners, who in 2018 rejected similar ad kiosks along our waterfront by the same vendor, IKE Smart City. Debate on those kiosks lasted for a year and included a robust discussion of the data-gathering technology contained in these devices. But this year, the info-capturing capabilities of interactive signs have been obfuscated in staff reports and minimized in ad agency testimony — and not even explained in the agreement the council will vote on.
It’s a stunning turnabout that councilmembers who claim to be most concerned about remedying the city’s entrenched patterns of inequality and addressing climate change are embracing an industry that stands for the opposite. The internet is replete with critiques of the advertising business as one that targets poor communities, promotes unhealthy consumerism and over-consumption, spews visual pollution, and accelerates climate change. No elected official can claim to be progressive while backing this regressive policy reversal."
Excerpted from Time of San Diego. Read the full version online at timesofsandiego.com.
In the April 20th Planning Commission meeting, Chairperson William Hofman voiced his common-sense reasoning for voting against the digital kiosks: "I am afraid of the risk from people who may want to challenge our sign ordinance or try to do similar things.
I am not going to support the motion. To me as a planning commissioner … my job is to look at the design, the needs, of not only the downtown area but also the entire city. And I just don’t see the need. I really don’t see the need. I believe that this will not be a substitute for cell phones. Cell phones are far more convenient, you don’t have to walk two blocks to look at it, and a cell phone can do everything that these kiosks will do. I definitely got online because I wanted to see what they looked like. It wasn’t clear in our staff report, really, the visual. These are eight feet tall. There’s digital advertising, which I don’t think is necessary …
It’s not easy for me to ever go against a city sponsored project, I don’t think I ever have …
I just feel overall, for the citizens, that it’s not necessary. And it’ll bring visual clutter downtown, that I believe will cause safety problems. People are going to use it, for sure, but I just think when it gets back to the basics, people are going to use their cell phones. … And I’m concerned about the extra visual clutter I don’t think downtown needs…" View the full video (skip to 2:21:30). Join us in opposing the digital kiosks - make your voice heard at the June 6th City Council meeting.
Scenic San Diego is an all-volunteer coalition of concerned citizens and organizations who favor strong sign ordinances and oppose billboards and other advertising sign proliferation.