S.F. mulls citywide aerial ad ban after America's Cup action 

The Board of Supervisors has been asked to approve an aerial advertisement ban in the airspace above the America's Cup yacht race, and now some supervisors want to take it further.

Supervisor Jane Kim said she receives "a ton of complaints" from constituents in parts of her District 6 — Rincon Hill, South Beach and Mission Bay — about planes towing ad banners through San Francisco skies during Giants baseball games at AT&T Park.

"It is a huge source of both air and noise pollution," she said, adding that The City shouldn't being giving the America's Cup special treatment.

"America's Cup is one event but we have multiple events here in The City," Kim said. "It seems for me strange to kind of uphold one event over many others. So for me I'd be interested in a citywide ban."

Supervisor John Avalos agrees, and he helped draft legislation that would enact a citywide ban on aerial advertising.

Other supervisors said they are open to the idea but want more time to consider it and hear from the public.

San Francisco would not be alone in such a move. Honolulu banned aerial advertisements in 1978 to protect scenic beauty. The legality of the law was tested with a 2003 lawsuit filed against the city by an anti-abortion group, Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, over its right to fly 100-foot-long banners displaying images of aborted fetuses.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2006 that the ban was constitutional, finding that airspace was a "nonpublic forum" and the ban was not based on content. The court found among the strongest reasons for the law was "preservation of the visual beauty of Honolulu's coastal and scenic areas."

The Austin City Council in Texas is currently debating a similar ban, according to the Austin Business Journal. The council is expected to vote in August on whether to enact the ban to address complaints from residents about aerial ads.

As the lawmakers in San Francisco mull a ban here, the Board of Supervisors next week is expected to approve a temporary ban over the America's Cup race course until the event ends Sept. 30.

Mike Martin, a city official working on the event, said part of the host agreement included securing flight restrictions. Martin said city officials had asked the Federal Aviation Administration to restrict air traffic over the race but the agency has declined to do so.

As an alternative, city officials proposed the temporary ban.

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