SF looks to crack down on billboards posing as business signs 

San Francisco is taking issue with business signs – those that are actually billboards.

Some billboard companies have been using a loophole in a 40-year-old business sign law to post signs seemingly unrelated to the respective business to advertise products or raffles, according to city officials.

But last week the Board of Supervisors approved legislation introduced by Supervisor Scott Wiener that closed the loophole as an interim measure. City officials will further examine just exactly how they want to regulate business signs as a more permanent fix.

San Francisco’s voters have not been too keen on billboards over the years. In 2002, voters passed Proposition G prohibiting the installation of additional billboards.

Recent questions have been raised when residents have seen billboards referencing a prize obtainable through a store raffle related to nothing that’s being sold in the store, Wiener noted.

“Since 1965 business practices and advertising practices have changed quite a bit and we have seen some scenarios where a loophole has been identified by certain billboard companies where they have turned what are supposedly business signs into what are in effect billboards,” Wiener said.

Supervisor Jane Kim said in the Tenderloin neighborhood she represents residents have complained about the volume of tobacco and liquor advertisements – perhaps not surprising given that there are 72 liquor stores in the area.

As the discussion on business signs continues, Kim said she hopes to explore regulations that consider the impacts different types of advertising signs might have on a community. “I want to be able to consider the impact it has on a neighborhood and a community to have advertising around tobacco and liquor and even soda, and all of those things we are trying to curtail,” Kim said. “I feel like it does impact the health of a neighborhood.”

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