June 13 - City Commission Voted to Expand Our Miami Mural Zone
The June 13 proposed ordinance that was up for second reading/enactment to enlarge Miami's mural ad zone was 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 was voted on and passed at the June 13 meeting.
We strongly oppose 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 these huge billboards on buildings facing I-95 and I-195.
June 27 - Disaster For Miami: New Sign Code Allows Electronic Signs Everywhere
A new and disasterous City Sign Code is being proposed that will allow electronic Message Signs on every commercial site in our city, 24 hour a day 7 days a week with changing messages every 6 hours and no distancing requirements from other signs or from residences. Imagine driving down a block with 20 commercial properites on it!
The Miami City Commission WAS scheduled to hear this proposed new sign code on first reading on May 23 but it has been deferred until June 27.
What's in the proposal?
Unfortunately there are many pro-outdoor industry features built into the City’s proposed new Sign Code despite months of work on it Miami planners. All that work and no protection for our unique, subtropical, scenic beauty.
Parts of the ordinance do clarify and improve old provisions but, most importantly, it creates a disaster called Electronic Message Signs (EMS), changing messages every 6 hours, for every business in Miami. Traffic on our streets will become more dangerous and residential neighborhoods will be forced to see distracting LED billboards 24/7.
The City’s proposal also does NOT eliminate media towers ( remember they approved 50 story multi-sided LED billboards), does NOT bring billboard and mural ads into a coordinated sign ordinance, does NOT comply with federal, state and county law, and does NOT protect residences from intruding, changing light messages.
Background on Mural Zone Englargement
What happened to the recent mural ad zone enlargement ordinance when originally presented?
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.
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://egov.ci.miami.fl.us/Legistarweb/Attachments/71714.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.
Please tell City of Miami Commissioners to vote No on FR 3 on May 9th, 2013. Vote No on allowing more billboards on buildings.
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.
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