As reported in the LA Weekly, the outdoor advertising company which successfully sued to overturn Los Angeles’ similar billboard ban is now pursuing San Francisco. The crux of the argument is that since San Francisco allows itself to profit from new outdoor ads, its 2002 ban violates free speech.
According to the court filings, Metro Fuel operates 164 panels in San Francisco. The illuminated mini billboards are located in parking lots, along the sides of buildings, and on poles.
Anti-billboard activists say that Fuel Outdoor Holdings is systematically attacking and putting in jeopardy city sign laws around the country including in Los Angeles.
In 2001, six months before Los Angeles City Hall erected a blanket ban on all new billboards, the city entered into a contract with CBS Decaux, which gave the advertising company a lucrative contract to sell and display advertising on bus shelters and kiosks. In return, the city would receive $150 million over the 20-year-term of the agreement.
Instead, the contract opened up a Pandora’s box of litigation. It didn’t take long before Metro Lights “movie poster” style signs that looked similar in size and shape to the cities “street furniture” started popping up.
In 2003, the city began citing the company for illegally erecting billboards. Metro Lights – which was later purchased by Fuel Outdoor Holdings in 2006 – filed a federal lawsuit against the city arguing that its “street furniture” program was “unconstitutional.” In 2006, a district judge agreed.
Los Angeles is appealing their loss. The attorney for Fuel Outdoor Holdings is none other than Laurence Tribe, who may know a thing or two about the constitution.
Will the City of San Francisco give up a revenue source in order to preserve the billboard ban? I would like to think so – LOL! Stay tuned…