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Billboard blight and mural ads are infecting downtown Miami

Sebastián Ballestas, Miami Herald

"Somewhere behind all the advertisements, there are actual buildings in Miami’s downtown core. If you live or work in one of the towers wrapped like packages, you could pinpoint your location by saying you’re in the Heineken building or the Verizon building or the Apple Watch building or the '47 Meters Down' building that warns shark-phobes to 'just stay out of the water.'

If you’re trying to find the bold new Zaha Hadid-designed exoskeleton high-rise on Biscayne Boulevard, it’s next to Ten Museum Park — more easily identifiable as the Sparkling Smart Water building.

In addition to residing in a multistory billboard, there are the blots on your bay view — the 1-800-411-PAIN sign erected by an accident-chasing law firm or the 3,375-square-foot video screen that adorns AmericanAirlines Arena.

'Visual pollution ruins what makes Miami beautiful — palm trees, blue skies, interesting architecture,' said Peter Ehrlich, co-founder of Scenic Miami, which has advocated for tighter regulation of signs. 'Tourists don’t come here to see giant ads. Residents are not asking for them. Yet they are in-your-face inescapable.'

The city limits the number of mural ads on the sides of buildings to 45. They can be as big as 10,000 square feet. They have not proliferated, but a few have moved to larger or more visible buildings.

'The outdoor advertisers are constantly jockeying to get on a bigger wall closer to a highway in order to reach more eyeballs,' said Ehrlich, who calls them 'monster murals.'

Developer Craig Robins wants to prevent the infiltration of mural signs into the Design District. The last thing he wants to see are tacky ads clashing with glamorous boutiques, modern art and new urban plazas.

'He’s got a vision, a sophisticated vision,' Ehrlich said. 'He doesn’t want any chance of hemorrhoid cream or Estrella Insurance ads next to Tiffany and Cartier shops or a sculpture installation.'

Robins is seeking to protect the Design District from signage blight. He has proposed shrinking the zone in which mural ads are permitted by moving the north border six blocks south to Northeast 38th Street.

On July 8, Miami’s city commissioners are scheduled to hear from Robins, who is the major property owner in the district. Robins was also instrumental in the redevelopment of South Beach in the 1990s.

'I’m not saying they’re inappropriate for all neighborhoods but we’re aspiring to a high level of art, design and architecture in the Design District,' he said. 'Rather than commercialize it, we want to make it a special place that is a source of pride for Miami.'

One existing ad space would be allowed to remain but new ads would be banned under the proposal. Like other property owners, Robins could rent out his prime wall space, much of which is visible from Interstate 95, to outdoor advertisers for tens of thousands of dollars a month. But Robins has commissioned artists to turn the sides of his buildings and a parking garage into 'beautiful installations.'

'If we took all our frontage and rented it out, it would be worth millions of dollars per year, but we’re not interested in marketing opportunities,' he said. 'The commission is usually sensitive when an idea is definitely for the betterment of the community.' The city makes almost $4 million a year from fees charged to outdoor advertising companies such as Clear Channel, Outfront Media and Wagner that earn billions from businesses seeking to get their messages and products in front of consumers.

'It’s another in a line of serial acts of municipal prostitution,' said Dusty Melton, a Miami-Dade lobbyist and political consultant who co-authored the county’s sign code in 1985. The city regularly flouts the code with its interpretation of it and allows programmable LED billboards that are prohibited, he said.

'No one has the political will to unplug these illegal billboards that are basically giant TVs on top of poles,' Melton said. 'There are probably 30 out there. The three on the Miami Children’s Museum are illegal.'

The city is discussing whether to raise its sign fees. One prime space that it rents out is on its own Miami River Center administrative building on Southwest Second Avenue and Fourth Street — a building that happens to house the code enforcement department.

'For a while that building had an ad promoting tourism to the Dominican Republic,' Ehrlich said...

'Nothing is too massive,' Ehrlich said. 'Property owners are now asking architects to design buildings with large wall spaces available for advertising.'"

Read entire article here

-- Linda Robertson, Miami Herald

Previous News

City of Miami Commissioners  voted to delete "Media Tower" from the Zoning Code on PZ.21.

Delete. Throw out. Discard. Trash.

Many organizations united to fight this blight:

Scenic Miami-Dade
Urban Environment League of Miami
Neighborhoods United
Emerge Miami
Downtown Neighbors Alliance
International Dark-Sky Association
Scenic Miami
Coalition Against Causeway Chaos
Scenic Floridaand many others 

The relevant city documents are below:

City Commission Fact Sheet 

PBZA Resolution


A Picture is Worth A Thousand Lies - 

Miami Artists Create Realistic Views of Proposed Monster LED Billboard Towers

These are the architect renditions that were shown during public meetings.   Where are the LED displays?

Below are more realistic renditions of what this so-called "iconic" media tower may look like lit up with advertisements.

Is this what residents and visitors want on the Miami skyline FOREVER?

Have you heard enough about why LED media towers do NOT belong in Miami?

Enough with fancy terms & artistic architectural renditions MISLEADING OUR City Commisson and rest of Miami citizens and visitors.

This is NOT like an Eiffel Tower, or an Arch of St Louis, or a Space Needle in Seattle.

There will be NO PRIDE on this; only embarrassment that this was built under the watch of our current elected representatives.

Don't believe that some architects are capable of deception?

Then, read this: http://sites.psu.edu/arch311w/2015/03/17/the-deceptive-nature-of-architectural-renderings/

"An example of misrepresentation in architecture of a false reality can be seen in the renderings for the Barclays Center Arena drawings by SHoP Architects" (Tje same architects that did the Miami innovation drawings).

"Digital ads on tap for Miami-Dade bus stops in swap for ‘smart’ kiosks that offer free Wi-Fi"

Digital ads could spread across Miami-Dade bus stops under a deal to install high-tech kiosks with Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the county’s transit system.

Illustration: Civiq from Miami Herald

"The company behind New York’s celebrated transformation of old pay phones into high-tech digital way stations has negotiated a 15-year deal with Miami-Dade officials to install up to 300 of the kiosks at bus stops and Metrorail stations across the county.

Civiq also would take over the transit system’s current Wi-Fi network on all of its trains, expanding the service to all buses at no charge. The Massachusetts company pays for the equipment and operating expenses through digital advertising on the kiosks, and sees enough profit potential in Miami-Dade that it has pledged to spend $20 million in the county to get started.


Executives tout the kiosks as a no-cost way for local governments to bring interactive information stations to their streets and transit centers — as well as an opportunity to use the equipment’s sensors to track everything from litter to gunshots to traffic.

'We call it the civic mobility experience. This is the concept of creating this seamless canopy of connectivity in a city,'Brad Gleeson, Civiq’s chief commercial officer, said in a presentation posted on the company’s website this month. The kiosks 'make a city more aware and more efficient.”

The kiosks themselves provide free Wi-Fi service within 200 feet, offering people waiting for a bus the chance to use the internet without tapping into their phone’s data plan.

Critics see the Civiq arrangement as a way to circumvent county restrictions on digital ads, which are strictly regulated and the bane of public-space activists. 'It’s pure visual pollution,'said Peter Ehrlich, a founder of Scenic Miami, a group that fights digital billboards.

Dusty Melton, a Miami-Dade lobbyist who has urged strict enforcement of the county’s sign ordinance, said Civiq’s digital kiosks could be considered roadside ads if installed at bus stops.

'This contract appears, quite clearly, to be in blatant violation of the county’s very own sign code,'Melton said. Along with a requirement that digital signs be limited to properties larger than 10 acres, Melton noted the current law requires the electronic ads only advertise things available on the property with the sign itself. Bus-stop screens, he said, would seem to violate the rules 'in hundreds of locations.”


Civiq executives were not available for interviews. A mock-up of a kiosk included in the draft contract shows it would stand about 9 feet tall, with a 55-inch screen — on the larger end of the scale for most big-screen televisions. A mock-up of the device in Gleeson’s presentation features an image of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on the main touch screen, with readouts on county weather and transit information below.

Alice Bravo, Miami-Dade’s transportation director, said at a recent committee meeting that county staff did not feel the county’s signage rules applied because the kiosks’ screens are designed for pedestrians.

'These are small, isolated screens,'she said. 'They’re not designed for viewing by vehicular traffic.”

Bravo and other administrators negotiated the no-bid Civiq deal under a provision in county law that allows marketing arrangements to be signed without soliciting other proposals. No Civiq executives registered to lobby county officials during the talks, avoiding a step that can draw public attention to a potential deal.


Gimenez recommended the Civiq contract in a Dec. 14 memo, and it won unanimous approval from the County Commission’s Transit committee on Wednesday. The deal, which includes revenue-sharing for the county from ad sales, is now awaiting a final vote before the 13-member Commission.

Bravo said the talks spun out of Miami’s annual eMerge Americas technology conference, which Civiq executives attended.

The company is in the midst of replacing New York’s 7,500 pay phones with the smart kiosks. They offer gigabit Wi-Fi, significantly faster than most networks, along with charging stations for cellphones, a button that automatically connects with a 911 operator, free phone calls from Vonage, and an interactive screen showing public announcements and information on city services.

Civiq is pitching its services to local governments across the country, but a company publicist said the closest example to Miami at the moment is New York.

Miami-Dade has the 14th largest transit system in the country, and the proposed deal gives Civiq the ability to install at least 150 stations in the county’s more than 40 rail stations and in a tiny portion of its more than 8,000 bus stops. Civiq would need local permission to install them at stops within city limits, a key barrier given the appeal of high-traffic areas in Miami and Miami Beach to advertisers.

In its online presentation, an executive with Civiq’s kiosk partner, Intel, described the use of cameras on advertising displays that can track a viewer’s gaze for interest and customize displays to match a passerby’s niche.

'If a woman is looking at a screen,'Intel’s Karthik Murugan said, 'you don’t want to show men’s clothing.”

Murugan also said three-dimensional cameras in the devices can help decipher whether an advertiser’s message is connecting. Along with 'gaze tracking,'new technology allows emotion detection.

'Are they happy? Are they frustrated with the content that’s being shown?'Murugan said. 'The 3-D camera will help with that analysis.”


The presentation also said Civiq raises revenue from cellular companies that can utilize the kiosks for help in boosting phone reception. Taking over Miami-Dade’s existing free Wi-Fi network in all trains and some buses could prove lucrative, too. Bravo said Civiq would have the ability to inject advertising into a Wi-Fi system that’s currently ad-free.

But while ads may come to transit’s Wi-Fi offerings, Civiq would also expand the service beyond the roughly 200 buses that have it now to the entire 850-vehicle fleet. And Miami-Dade could stop paying Wi-Fi providers for the current service, since Civiq would pick up the tab.

Gimenez’s Dec. 14 memo said the 15-year deal would save Miami-Dade about $2 million in existing costs, with the county collecting between 3 and 4 percent of Civiq’s ad revenue (and up to 5 percent if the deal is renewed).

Bravo said a central advantage comes from the convenience a high-tech kiosk can provide transit users — especially new passengers who aren’t familiar with how the system works.

'We’re looking for things that help improve access to transit, that help improve the reliability of transit,'she said. 'I think that’s how we get more and more people to take public transit.”

--Douglas Hanks, Miami Herald

Read entire article here

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.

Art Contest

We were pleased to announce that “Flamboyant” by Nancy Reyna is the winner of the “Scenic Miami  – 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 was held online and included 27 fine art paintings by the Miami Watercolor 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!

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."

Read MORE here

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?

Media Towers
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.

Illegal Signs
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

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.

To take action on scenic issues via Scenic Miami-Dade, Inc., click here to visit that site.

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