FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — Scenic America and Scenic San Diego June 7, 2023. Download this press release (pdf).
JUNE 7, 2023, WASHINGTON, SAN DIEGO - We are disappointed and disheartened at the San Diego City Council’s 7:1 vote to approve up to 75 new digital advertising kiosks in downtown San Diego yesterday. Labeled “wayfinding kiosks” by supporters, these sidewalk billboards will add visual blight, distraction, and confusion to our scenic community beginning in three years.
Not to mention, this program is counter to San Diego’s longstanding outdoor advertising laws, which have kept our community nearly free of such visual pollution for four decades.
San Diego was the first to take a case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, establishing its legal authority to limit outdoor advertising clutter in the 1981 case Metromedia v. San Diego. The city then became a nationwide leader when it froze the number of billboards at those existing in 1983.
By approving these kiosks, the City Council has opened the door for advertising companies to file for similar exemptions. It cannot be overstated that the Council’s ruling could devastate the scenic character of our community.
Among the 10 largest cities in the nation, San Diego is unique in its relative absence of outdoor advertising. This hard-fought legacy deserves preservation. But elected officials are looking only at dollars promised by ad agencies, ignoring what will be lost if our urban environment is transformed into a visually blighted one like those of Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Las Vegas.
Similar to San Diego, we have seen the proliferation of these digital “wayfinding kiosks” in other major cities. In California alone, there have been changes to city and municipal code to allow for digital sidewalk displays in Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Santa Monica. Similar amendments have also been approved in Houston, and more cities may continue to follow suit if allowed.
In San Diego, 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.
The kiosk ordinance will be brought before the City Council again before Mayor Todd Gloria must choose whether to sign it into law. New outdoor digital advertising is currently outlawed in San Diego, and we intend to do everything in our power to keep it that way. We join the Sierra Club and the Save Our Heritage Organisation in direct and full opposition to this move to add hundreds of thousands of rotating outdoor ads to our sidewalks.
President Scenic America
Scenic San Diego
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.