Welcome - Scenic Miami
Massive LED tower planned
City of Miami commissioners, sitting as board members of the Southeast Overtown Park West Community Redevelopment Agency (SEOPW CRA), could ratify an agreement allowing the construction of a 675 foot tower on Monday.
This is over 60 stories and will completely dwarf our skyline while it displays 85,000 SF of brightly flashing LED signs.
It is expected to be visible in a 25 mile radius from the central location in Park West which is within close range of the busy intersection of I-395 and I-95, as well as near the cruise ports and Miami Beach.
Our tourists will be greeted with crass commercial advertising looming over their arrivals/departures.
It would be a shame to allow this very central and key area of our city to be subjected to a flashing commercial light show on a 24/7 basis.
Residents across a wide area will likely be forced to install blackout curtains in their own homes.
This proposed tower is on such an unprecidented scale that is likely to be extremely disturbing and disruptive to large number of residents in our city as well as in nearby areas of the county.
Is it legal under county law? Is it legal under the Federal highway beautification act? It would be very unwise for Miami to agree to something that appears to violate both county and federal laws.
Scenic Dade is fighting this project
Visit their website by clicking on:
Take Action Here
Other Area News
Our Green Space on Parcel B Was Protected from the Soccer Field!
Parcel B is the 3 acre waterfront site east of the American Airlines Arena. During the 1996 campaign to get the Voter Referendum approved to allow the Miami Heat to build on adjacent taxpayer owned land ads showed Parcel B as having a soccer field. Voters saw a green Parcel B in various advertisements. 18 years later Parcel B is fenced off and padlocked. Instead of open green space the waterfront site is used as a parking lot for trucks and port-a-pottys.
Studies show the City of Miami ranks last or second to last in park space per capita. Downtown Miami has attracted 15,000+ new residents. The City of Miami needs more park space, not less. Residents, tourists and taxpayers crave more open green space.
You TOLD our elected officials to vote No on covering Parcel B in concrete and Yes to make Parcel B open green space and the soccer stadium is not longer an issue.
"Miami Ducking Decision on Illuminated Signs"
This thoughtful article by John Charles Robbins appeared in Miami Today.
"More than two years in the making, a new and improved sign ordinance is headed for adoption by the Miami City Commission.
And while the commission approved the first reading of the new sign rules March 13, it put off a decision on one of the most controversial aspects having to do with illuminated signs, including LED signs...
... the changes don’t cover wall murals or billboards, which fall under a separate ordinance.
But that didn’t stop some in the audience from speaking out against billboards, while also lambasting the often glaringly bright LED signs scattered around the city.
Nathan Kurland said the 'flashing mess' of LED signs threatens to ruin the area’s tropical beauty, and even stricter rules are needed to regulate the brightness of LEDs.
Some of the larger LED billboards can be seen up to 27 miles away, he said.
Mr. Kurland also said illegal billboards should be removed immediately at the owners’ expense.
'We have enough illegal signage,' said Nancy Liebman of the MiMo Boulevard Association. She suggested neon lights instead of LED signs.
Ms. Liebman suggested the city’s historic preservation board be involved in any talks about illuminated signage, especially considering the ongoing efforts to resurrect old motels, which relied on neon signs in the past.
Bob Powers also spoke in favor of neon lighting over LED-type signs. 'Neon is much more palatable to the eye,' he said.
Peter Ehrlich Jr., [representing Scenic Miami-Dade], said the group isn’t opposed to the basic aspects of the proposed ordinance. However, the group strenuously opposes electronic message signs.
They are 'damning and offensive,' he said.
Commissioner Francis Suarez commended the planning staff for its work on the sign ordinance.
'I support this effort. I believe it will make signs better looking,' said Mr. Suarez, who suggested leaving illuminated sign rules for another day.
The city has illuminated signs 'all over the place,' he said, and they’re 'a mess' and 'ugly.'
Commissioner Keon Hardeman agreed to set aside the rules governing illuminated signs for a later debate. 'I want to tackle that head on,' he said.
Mr. Hardeman spoke of one LED sign in Miami Springs that was so bright 'it shocked me.' Illuminated signs certainly get your attention, he said, but with motorists taking their eyes off the road it becomes 'a huge safety issue.'
Commissioner Marc Sarnoff mentioned two LED-type signs along northbound US 1 near Coconut Grove, one touting the results of cosmetic surgery. He asked if those illuminated signs are legal.
'It is my contention they are not,' said Mr. Garcia.
Mr. Sarnoff asked if the planning department has done anything about those signs. Mr. Garcia said it has worked with code enforcement on them.
Mr. Sarnoff asked Mr. Garcia to report back to the commission on the extent of enforcement efforts regarding those two signs.
Commissioner Frank Carollo said 'it’s selective enforcement,' a point he was trying to make earlier this year when commissioners debated removal efforts on a mural along I-95.
Mr. Garcia noted that the current sign ordinance prohibits flashing and animated signs."
Read the entire article on the Miami Today website here!
New Freestanding "Bus Stop" Signs With Large Electrical Supply Boxes In Historic Coconut Grove
In Miami Blog Spot, posted by Grapevine:
"There's a new improved sign ordinance planned for the City of Miami including illuminated and LED signs but it keeps being put off because no one knows the exact rules or wants to make a decision.
The proposed ordinance would eventually get rid of all free-standing signs in favor of monument signs, which planners view as 'more urban,' according to this article in Miami Today.
Grovite Nathan Kurland, quoted in Miami Today, said 'the 'flashing mess' of LED signs threatens to ruin the area’s tropical beauty, and even stricter rules are needed to regulate the brightness of LEDs.'
Well, a flashing mess was installed right in the Center Grove, which took a couple of weeks to do. It was so involved that even the streets were dug up to accommodate the monolith sitting next to a bus bench. There's even a large ugly electrical meter next to it so that FPL can get their cut of the digital mess. This is right on Grand Avenue, near Virginia Street, a major bus stop here in the Grove. And no one waited for the new rules to be confirmed before planting this right in the middle of the sidewalk.
Locals are upset and the thing isn't even lit up yet. There may be some rules against this though with the Grove being historical and all. Although I thought that historical streets, not the whole village, would be a deterrent. I'm not sure if Grand Avenue is historical, but the locals are hysterical over the sign."
Detailed Article About These and Other Signs
Al Crespo's article covering his take on the business and politics behind about these signs can be found here:
This is a highly entertaining article that puts the new signs in a broader context which includes two short video clips showing signs in action, photos of material illustrating how an outdoor sign owner "describes their position in the Miami market to potential customers", an "infamous campaign flyer" put out by a leading politician, text of City of Miami resolutions, many photos and other items.
Mini-LEDs Removed from Sign Code Legislation
Great Progress Has Been Made, But Sign Code Still Has Serious Flaws!
Thanks to Scenic Miami Dade's Efforts and to our Commissioners Francis Suarez and Keon Hardemon for their thoughtful comments and leadership in keeping the mini-LED billboards out of the legislation that creates our new Sign Code, which was voted on during the March 13, 2014 City of Miami Commission meeting.
The City Planning Department was recommending language that would allow an unlimited number of mini-LED billboards to be place throughout the city and that section has been removed for further study.
Scenic Miami and Scenic Miami-Dade Board Members objected to numerous provisions of the Sign Code at numerous public meetings.
Citizens flooded the commission with emails objecting to various provisions.
Our efforts paid off. On March 13th it passed on First Reading 4 to 1 subject to the mini-LED billboard signs being removed.
The proposed new Sign Code STILL has some serious flaws, so we do have more work to accomplish!
It does not deal with billboards, illegal LED billboards, billboards on the sides of buildings and various other forms of outdoor advertising.
Another flaw is the proposed Sign Code includes a section called Media Tower, which is really just a massive structure to support an unlimited number of illegal LED billboards. One of the worst elements of the proposed Sign Code was a section called Electronic Message Signs (EMS) which are mini-LED billboards and we have now succeeded in removing this section.
We are very pleased to announce that “Flamboyant” by Nancy Reyna is the winner of the “Scenic Miami 2013 – Best Tropical Floral Painting” Award.
"Scenic Miami offers congratulations to everyone on a great show and their outstanding art work!” -- Peter R. Ehrlich, Jr., Scenic Miami President
The Scenic Miami and the Miami Watercolor Society art show started in December and this online show included 27 fine art paintings by the society members.
“Thanks to Scenic Miami for involving the Miami Watercolor Society in their quest to find the “Best Tropical Floral Painting. We are very happy present the beautiful flowers that are always in bloom through our tropical watercolor paintings” -- Diane Lary, Miami Watercolor Society President
Our community is so very beautiful that sometimes it’s easy to get accustomed to our lovely surroundings. Miami’ famous tropical climate results in many fantastic yards and gardens that contain a wide range of tropical flower varieties. Unlike many of us, our artists do remember to notice what our community really looks like.
The Miami Watercolor Society selected the theme, Tropical Floral Paintings, for our show and we think the results speak for themselves on the online facebook gallery! The show will linger a bit longer to allow everyone to fully appreciate all of the the 26 works of art found there. Our kind hosts at Scenic Miami-Dade's facebook page will allow our show to remain online for a bit longer in their gallery.
About Nancy Reyna: Nancy Reyna is a watercolor artist originally from Venezuela, living and working in Miami. Through lively brush work and intricately patterned shadows, her watercolors take on a life of their own. An active member of the Florida Watercolor Society, and the Portrait Society of America, Nancy Reyna originally focused on portraits but now brings her style to landscapes and still life as well.
Congratulations to everyone who participated in this fun show and have a wonderful 2014!
WHAT Are We Teaching Our Children and Who is Doing the Teaching?
"Miami Children's Museum Lights Up the Sky. From the Macarthur Causeway You Can't Miss it Even if You Wanted To"
Please visit them their website at http://www.biscaynetimes.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1648:miami-childrens-museum-lights-up-the-sky&catid=50:community-news&Itemid=223 to read his article.
Two Mayors Turn Blind Eye to Outrageous Sign Code Violation...Yet Again
Our friends over at Scenic Miami-Dade sent a letter to the City and County Mayors on November 14, 2013:
"Dear Mayor Gimenez and Mayor Regalado:
Have you no shame at all? Have you completely abandoned all allegiance to the rule of law? Do you no longer care about scofflaws who degrade our community's beautiful landscape and quality of life? Did you ever? Do you believe that the Miami-Dade County Code, particularly the sign-regulating sections that also govern outdoor advertising within municipalities, including the City of Miami, is a complete and utter joke, unworthy of enforcement against even the most blatant and insulting violations?
In May 2012, the Miami City Commission voted 4-1 to 'authorize' the unlawful installation of programmable signs on the exterior walls of three buildings at city owned property, including the Miami Children's Museum on Watson Island. Despite vigorous public objection-- which included presentation of a written opinion by the Miami-Dade County Attorney that such installations would be illegal pursuant to Section 33-96.1 of the County Code -- Mayor Regalado, you failed to veto that 'approval.'
Despite vigorous public objection, Mayor Gimenez, you failed to respond, intervene and enforce the governing statute that makes those signs entirely illegal, the Sign Code of your very own Miami-Dade County government.
Mayors, you failed in this instance because each of you has chronically failed for so very long to demonstrate even one ounce of political leadership, moral fortitude or intellectual honesty with regard to the massive, years-long and manifestly arrogant violations of the Sign Code perpetrated by the Miami City Commission, its lap-dog administration and completely bone-headed City Attorney's Office ... all underscored and illuminated by the collusion and profit-making business partnership between the City of Miami and South Florida's out-of-home advertising industry.
The public record is as replete with examples of this County-sanctioned and City approved lawlessness as our community's landscape is littered with hundreds, if not thousands, of illegal signs.
Shame on you both.
The Miami Children's Museum has installed and activated three programmable signs on just two of its exterior walls alongside the heavily traveled MacArthur Causeway. Today motorists are shown ads for cruise-ship vacations, air travel to foreign destinations, resort stays in the Dominican Republic, and tickets to techno-savvy expositions (copies of four informing photographs are attached for your convenience), among other tantalizing commercial offers.
These three sign installations and all of those ads are illegal. They totally violate the Sign Code, a law that each of you was sworn into public office and trust to uphold.
Ten simple requirements have existed within the Sign Code since 1994 for any programmable sign, including those newly installed on the outside walls of the Miami Children's Museum, to be legal. One of those 10 legal requirements is that the leasehold property on which the sign is located be at least 10 acres in size. Another of those 10 legal requirements is that only goods and services and products available for sale on the sign's premises may be advertised.
You cannot buy a Norwegian Cruise Line ticket at the Miami Children's Museum. You cannot by an Interjet airline ticket at the Miami Children's Museum. You cannot buy a stay at Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic at the Miami Children's Museum. And you cannot buy a ticket to the 2013 Miami Tech Summit and Holiday Bash there either, because the event is free -- but the advertisement is illegal nonetheless because the commercial event takes place at Marlins Park, many miles away from the Miami Children's Museum.
The signs'installations and operations are illegal because the Miami Children's Museum's leasehold property is far less than 10 acres in size, contrary to the requirement of law. The signs' operations and content are illegal because the goods and services and products broadcast on and by them have absolutely nothing to do with, and are entirely unavailable at 980 MacArthur Causeway, street address of the Miami Children's Museum, again contrary to the requirement of law.
The signs' operations further violates the Sign Code requirement that Class C commercial signs -- which the three newly attached to the Miami Children's Museum building most certainly are-- must be at least 100 feet from any school. The Miami
Children's Museum's own charter school operates only a few feet away, right inside the exterior walls to which its three Class C commercial signs are affixed, contrary to the requirement of law.
The signs' installations also violate the minimum spacing rules between commercial signs as required by Florida Statutes and Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) regulations. Allow me to quote no less an authority than Assistant Miami City Manager Alice Bravo, from her testimony [official meeting minutes on Page 32] at the City Commission's meeting of May 24, 2012: 'So for example, [at the Miami Children's Museum] on MacArthur Causeway you could have one sign that's visible from the westbound direction, one sign that's visible from the eastbound direction, and you couldn't have two that are visible from the [westbound or] eastbound direction without running afoul of the FDOT criteria.'
Mayors, please flip to either of the first two attached photos. Number of signs on the wall? Count to two. Can you say 'Oops!'?
Let's at least agree on this point: Members of the Miami Children's Museum's governing board-- not a particularly unsophisticated bunch -- and the museum's senior staff are fully and completely aware of the particulars of the Sign Code of Miami-Dade County, the Sign Code's regulation of the installation and operation of commercial signs such as theirs, and the simple fact that their new, glitzy programmable signs violate the law of our community. They are just as guilty of this violation as both of you and your functionaries are. The complicity of Greater Miami's civic elite makes this particular Sign Code violation damnable.
So, what's to be done about yet another community-insulting mess that each of you and your turned blind eyes have allowed to happen?
Well, concerned citizens such as the members of Scenic Miami-Dade County Inc. write letters such as this. We inform other elected and appointed individuals in our federal, state, county and municipal offices of your horrendous behavior. We also alert members of the local media who have expressed an interest in this matter. And we hope and pray that someone in higher authority brings down upon both of you, and your respective governments, the full force and weight of the legal and moral imperative to pay attention to the law, and to enforce it at long last."
Read entire Scenic Miami-Dade's letter by clicking here: (.pdf)
The City Of Miami Will Hear Proposed Legislation
On October 10th, 2013
That Will Allow Many More Massive Billboards
Al Crespo Weighs In
"The Most Flagrant Violation of All Time - The Fabric Billboard On City of Miami's MRC Building" - The Crespogramreport
Al Crespo calls it like he sees it. This coverage includes his opinion on the sorry state of affairs with Miami buildingbillboards.
Visit his site here:
They are NOT Going Away!
The Two Legislative Items To Allow Massive Billboards on Buildings Facing Highways were Deferred but will be Voted on in October.
Why Is City Commission Trying to Add more Billboards on Buildings?
The two resolution items originally on the July 11th, 2013 Agenda that pertain to an ill-considered attempt to legalize giant billboards, also known as mural ads, on the sides of buildings fronting the expressways were back on the agenda for Thursday, July 25, 2013, deferred and put back, deferred all summer. Now they are BACK FOR A VOTE on October 10.
What Can You Do?
Tell them what you think! One easy way to do this is to go to Scenic Miami-Dade's site by clicking on: Take Action Here
The new agenda item numbers are RE.6 and RE.7, but the documents are reported to be unchanged from those on July 11, 2013, which were originally labeled RE.11 and RE.12. The links below are to those actual docs on the city website, so that you will have the latest should things change. The main site for both the agenda and the corresponding documents is: http://egov.ci.miami.fl.us/Legistarweb/
Click here to read Summary Form RE.11
Click here to read Legislation RE.11
Click here to read Exhibit 1 RE.11
Click here to read Summary Form RE.12
Click here to read Legislation RE.12
Click here to read Exhibit 1 RE.12
So many of the citizens wrote various government agencies, educated themselves and our elected officials, that the commission felt the need to defer these items at the last meeting BUT NOW YOUR ACTIONS ARE NEEDED AGAIN.
Bill Brinton, nationally renowned sign attorney, provided analysis of the situation for us during the last scheduled meeting on July 11 and educated all of us on this extremely important matter. Thank you to Bill.
The City, and not FDOT, will become responsible for effective control of billboards on building walls (known as mural billboards), based upon customary size, spacing and lighting as of January 27, 1972. The City maintains that billboards were customary along the expressways (not true) for sizes up to 10,000 square feet (not true).
It turns out that as of January 27, 1972, billboards facing the expressways had already been banned for more than eight years. It also turns out that there was a strict size limitation for non-expressway billboards that limited their size to three and one-half (3 1/2) square feet for each linear foot of wall fronting a street.
FDOT and FHWA have been asked to take another look at the representations made by the City to government officials.
In an effort to gain the state's approval, the City has offered to share one-half of the gross revenue from the giant billboards with the FDOT for road projects. The terms of this arrangement came before the City for the first time on July 11 when it was deferred until July 25.
Deferring RE 7 and RE 8, legislation that is drafted to evade the requirements of the federal Highway Beautification Act, was the right thing to do and we thank Miami officials for doing so.
Historic News ArticleJust one example of news coverage on the Miami billboard situation during the 1960s. Click here to read Miami Herald Article by Pete Weitzel Entitled "Billboards Get the Message - Banned from X-Ways"
Cover Story in Biscayne Times:
"Billboard Jungle - Outdoor advertising is Miami’s crack cocaine: The money gets you high, but one day it’ll kill you"
Photo: Silvia Ros, Biscayne Times
"One of the nation’s top experts on outdoor advertising says Miami has 'America’s most illegal billboard.' Guess where it’s located."
June 27 - Catastrophic Sign Code Proposed and then Deferred
Everyones Emails and Other Efforts Saved the Day!
We are hopeful that they ordinance will be amended and improved before this matter comes up again for a first reading in the near future.
The New Miami Cityscape: Electronic Message Boards and Media Towers?
Despite much hard work, many months of delay and input from concerned citizens, the proposed sign code that was scheduled to be given a first hearing on June 27 remained virtually unchanged from a previous version. It was decidedly "Industry Friendly".
The deferred sign code contains provisions which would significantly change our uniquely subtropical community into a pandemonium of flashing and distracting signs and lights everywhere residents and visitors look.
Click here to read input letter from Barbara Bisno
Click here to read the proposed sign code ordinance
As proposed, the new code will allow our beautiful subtropical city to be covered with the increasingly affordable Electronic Message Signs (EMS). The new code contains no distancing requirements from other signs or from residences. They will glow 24 hour a day/7 days a week with messages that can be changed every 6 hours. Imagine driving through a dense commercial area where each property has it's own sign. How about having your own bedroom window invaded by light from these very bright signs?
Giant Media Towers will not be restricted to one part of the city.
A media tower approved by the City of Miami previously consisted of 500 foot high LED structures that potentially had dozens of billboard sized ads on them, that if it had been built, would have been seen for tens of miles, destroying Miami's skyline, landscape and numerous neighborhoods.
This new sign code allows for these Media Towers across the city.
Miami's current inventory of illegal and non-conforming signs will be allowed!
This is a disaster.
What Can You Do?
Stay tuned and respond to alerts when you will be asked to tell them what you think any way you can! One easy way to do this is to go to Scenic Miami-Dade's site by clicking on: Take Action Here
June 13 - City Commission Voted to Expand Our Miami Mural Zone
The June 13 proposed ordinance that was enacted to enlarge Miami's mural ad zone is substantially different than the original proposed ordinance in that it now provides that the district commissioner must be given notice, introducing politics into decisions about mural ad locations.
Another provision, also new but one we always request on any property issue, is that adjacent neighbors and homeowners association that are registered with the NET offices(Neighborhood Enhancement Team) receive notice.
These substantial changes require, under state law, a new first reading, but it passed.
We strongly opposed this proposed expansion of the Miami mural ad zone. It does not benefit the city or its neighborhoods, but rather profits two politically connected property owners. Mural ads are really just Billboards on Buildings.
Commissioner Sarnoff listened to the voter outcry on this issue and voted "no" on this (SR5). Commissioner Gort, Spence and Suarez voted "yes" to allow at least two new property owners to install these huge billboards on their buildings facing I-95 and I-195.
What happened to the recent mural ad zone enlargement ordinance?
It passed on first reading 3-1. Commissioners Gort, Spence-Jones, and Suarez voting in favor and Commissioner Sarnoff voting against. Thank you, Commissioner Sarnoff. Commissioner Spence-Jones wants ordinance amended before Second Reading so that district commissioner approves sites of mural ads with explicit benefits to district (and commissioners). Those “substantial” changes would, it seems to us, require a new first reading.
Background: Mural ad zone englargment
On May 9th, 2013 City of Miami Commissioners voted on FR 3, which allows more billboards on buildings.
The Proposed Change:
Map showing the expansion is here: http://www.scenicdade.org/public/resources/13-00068Exhibit1.pdf
Summary of the proposed change is here: http://www.scenicdade.org/public/resources/13-00068SummaryFormFR.pdf
Text of the proposed change is here: http://www.scenicdade.org/public/resources/13-00068LegislationFR.pdf
In 2004, the City of Miami began efforts to authorize "billboards on buildings" on building exterior walls downtown — so-called mural ads, clearly violating the County Sign Code and clearly violating the Highway Beautification Act (HBA). Federal Department of Transportation acting for the Department of Highway Administration has notified Miami explaining that the current illegal multi-story advertising wrapped around its buildings (billboards on buildings) cannot be allowed to continue as it violates the Federal Highway Beautification Act. It is illegal for sign companies simply to put multistory billboards along the nation’s highways. There are many penalties. The most severe penalty is funding for federal highways may be withheld.
MIAMI AND MIAMI DADE SCENIC SUMMIT, APRIL 10, 2013
Is Miami misleading federal and state officials?
Over 50 community leaders packed our April 10 summit to learn that the City of Miami is indeed distorting facts and misleading federal and state officials in its attempt to become a “certified city.” In this context, a city is “certified” as being responsible for "effective control" of outdoor advertising in accordance with the federal Highway Beautification Act (HBA) and the federal regulations.
As outrageous as it sounds, federal and state officials are negotiating “certified city” agreements with Miami to allow Miami to violate the HBA standards for size, spacing and lighting. The HBA requires that for such certification, local standards, in effect in 1972, be used to determine “customary use” as of 1972. Here, our local standards or customary use are governed by the 1963 County sign ordinance. This county ordinance prohibited large billboards within 600 feet of the federal highway right of way and was still the law in 1972. Two years ago, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) told Miami its billboards and mural advertisements violate the federal/state distancing requirements.
But, national expert William D. Brinton, Esq., said the FDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) now appear to be ignoring these standards in their negotiations with the City. Is it possible the state and federal representatives have forgotten the federal/state requirements and don’t know about the 1963 county law? Is it possible the City of Miami, in failing to include this county ordinance in its application to become a “certified city,” will bamboozle the feds and state folks? Miami becoming a certified city has national implications; if Miami can get away with this song and dance, other cities may try the same scam with the feds.
After hearing the long history of the proliferation of free-standing and wall billboards in Miami and Miami-Dade County, many attendees felt this was the last straw to stir them to join the growing group of scenic activists.
The Summit was hosted by Scenic Miami and Scenic Miami-Dade and co-sponsored by the Urban Environment League, Miami Neighborhoods United, the MiMo Biscayne Association and the Upper Eastside Preservation Coalition.
How did we get here?
The Summit attendees learned how the county/Miami "billboard compromise" in the 1980's, allowing 10 static billboards west of I-95 and no billboards east of I-95, has unraveled.
Over the years, Mr. Brinton explained, the lack of federal, state, county and municipal enforcement, and lack of political will to preserve our scenic beauty, as well as the seduction by the monies and influence of the outdoor advertising industry, has resulted in the flood of the large wall billboards and LED electronic free-standing billboards flicking new images every 8 seconds in the City of Miami and beyond.
All this in the face of the Florida Constitution provision, Article II, Section 7(a): It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and protect its natural resources and scenic beauty.
Miami, Current Federal Lawsuit, and the Federal Highway Beautification Act.
The federal Highway Beautification Act (HBA), known at the Lady Bird Act, enacted in 1965, creates a protected area within 660’ of federal and federally supported highways (e.g., US 1, Biscayne Blvd, interstates, etc.) wherein new billboards are limited to commercial and industrial zones with customary size, spacing and lighting restrictions. Penalties consist of withholding 10% of federal highway funds from the state.
In 1972, Florida executed a federal/state agreement which gave the state primary enforcement authority of the federal statute. This agreement reiterated the commercial and industrial zone limitation as well as stating the customary sign face size of a maximum of 1,200 square feet in area, 60 feet in length, and 30 feet in height. Customary spacing was a minimum of 1,000 feet along interstates and 500 feet along federal aid primary highways. Customary lighting did not allow intermittent lighting except for non-commercial messages, i.e., time and weather. A federal guidance, issued in 2007 and reversing the federal government’s prior position, permitted electronic billboards changing every 8 seconds for commercial messages. This guidance, which is contrary to the HBA and its regulations, has been challenged in a current federal lawsuit.
Miami-Dade County’s Strict Ordinance: Can Miami Opt-Out?
Importantly, Miami-Dade County has always had a stringent ordinance dealing with billboards along our roadways, dating from 1963. The 1985 rewrite of the County Sign Code, which included the above described billboard compromise, established minimum sign standards for all signs in all areas of the County, incorporated and unincorporated.
In 2007, cities were allowed to “opt out” of that portion of the County Sign Code (Chapter 33, Article VI, Division 5) which restricted the placement of signs (free standing and wall billboards) in proximity to expressways only. Miami and other cities opted out of this portion of the County Code in 2009, but only from this portion of the County Code. There is no opt-out provision for the remainder of the County Sign Code, including the regulations for changeable signs and the provision that no sign may be permitted unless explicitly allowed under the County Sign Code. Therefore, all LED electronic free-standing and wall billboards currently violate the County Sign Code. Neither the City (primary enforcer) nor the County seeks enforcement and penalties in regard to these violations.
Further, in May 1985, the City of Miami, whose own sign regulations, had restricted billboards visible to the freeways since October 1965, amended its municipal code to allow for 10 expressway billboards. The following month, the County Commission adopted a countywide ordinance to insure a go-forward ban on billboards near expressways, including in municipalities, but with Miami's "last 10" grandfathered in.
This was the “Great Billboard Compromise of 1985,” in which the industry publicly agreed, in testimony before the Miami City Commission, to self-limit itself to 10 signs (most estimates at that time predicted as many as 52 distinct expressway locations were available within city limits) and for those 10 signs all to be placed on the west side of Interstate 95.
Those 10 expressway billboards soon were legally installed, and for 15 years the industry complied with the county’s and city’s coordinated sign codes. Then, in early 2000, the first of what ultimately would be dozens of expressway billboards were installed east of I-95 in the City of Miami. In April 2002, the Miami City Commission voted unanimously to sue the three existing billboard companies for those unlawful expressway-location installations and a variety of other violations of the county’s and city’s sign codes.
Although the City of Miami was prevailing in all three cases in circuit and federal courts, a new City Commission in July 2003 began settling those lawsuits – in effect, becoming business partners with the three sign companies, sharing in each company’s profits in exchange for allowing the illegal signs to remain in place undisturbed or – far worse – for allowing even more illegal signs to be installed alongside expressways.
Scenic activists in several community organizations across the city and county are now resolved to work together in efforts to stop the degradation of our scenic environment.
"City commissioners unanimously voted to kill the ordinance permitting ads on city-owned facilities and fixtures during Thursday meeting, reports the Miami Herald, but Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said it would likely return with a clearer definition of where ads would be placed."
Since Feb. 14, 2013, the Miami City Commission has been considering a new ordinance to allow ads on structures in and adjacent to the public right-of-way.
First, they considered ads without limits on number, size or lighting on any structure, e.g., curbs, light posts, etc.
You protested with thousands of emails. A discussion was had by the Commissioners which seemed to restrict these ads for second reading and enactment March 14.
You protested again that what was being considered seemed like a big change and state law required a new first reading. The Commissioners agreed to follow your request.
On April 11, we saw a proposal for ads on parking pay stations only, with public info filling a majority of the space and with limited lighting. This is an improvement over the Feb 14 ordinance. But why more ads at all and in the public right-of-way? Where are the limits in size or number in the city? Who wants this - the city will collect small fees, commerce will not receive much of a boost - only the outdoor ad industry will grab another ad venue to be expanded in a little while, no doubt.
We thank Commissioner Frank Carollo for voting No both times this proposed legislation has come up.
You can find the text of the proposed changes to the ordinance at http://egov.ci.miami.fl.us/Legistarweb/Attachments/70890.pdf.
Let your commissioner know you want no expansion of ads in the public right or way. Please use our Take Action page to tell them to Vote No on this item, SR 2.
Help Support Us
Help make our city a better place to live, work and visit!
We need to continue to demand that Miami-Dade County enforce the County Sign Code.
Please ask the County Commissioners to pass a resolution that the County enforce the County Sign Code.
Chronicle of the Billboard Wars - Halt Digital Billboards Spread
This documentary, “Chronicle of the Billboard Wars,” shares information and inspiration from citizens around the country who have risen up to say, “Enough is enough.”
The producers visited over 20 American cities to document the work of these individuals and organizations that often face difficult political and financial odds in the war against the billboard companies.
In the best American tradition, citizens have taken their grass-roots fight to city councils, county boards, zoning commissions and state legislatures.
Their message is simple: “People, not corporations, own the public space.”
“Chronicle of the Billboard Wars” covers these citizens and their grass roots struggle as they share stories, build solidarity, organize and fight back against the large corporations that are pushing the digital billboards. Their stories are compelling and upbeat as they share their experiences and say to all of us that “you can beat these people” and that “citizens matter.”
Watch “Chronicle of the Billboard Wars,” and support all ProScenic Friends. Please help increase awareness of the possible invasion of digital billboards in your local community.
Help fight the blight!
You can obtain copies of "Chronicle of the Billboard Wars" on DVD for to watch yourself or larger quantities to hand out at www.blightfighters.org/shop/dvd
Cities don't have to bow to visual pollution
Read this article in Washington Post about how Rio de Janeiro got rid of ad blight.