Supervisors ponder fate of lone city billboard 

San Franciscans who voted to prohibit the installation of additional billboards might be surprised to discover that The City itself is the proud owner of one.

A billboard affixed to a city building could generate at least $324,000 in five years, but some billboard critics want the 28-by-99-foot advertisement down for good.

The City inherited the sign in May 2007 when it purchased the building at 1650 Mission St., which came with a billboard facing highway 101 and leased to CBS Outdoor. It is the only billboard advertising on a city-owned building.

After the lease expired last year, the city set out to maximize its revenue. Wednesday, a Board of Supervisors committee approved a five-year contract with three-five year options with the advertising company Total Outdoor. Under the first term, The City expects to earn at least $324,000 to help cover the building’s operational costs.

However, not everyone thinks The City should keep the billboard going. Milo Hanke, past president of the neighborhood group San Francisco Beautiful said The City should eliminate the billboard since voters have overwhelming opposed such signs. “They degrade the neighborhood,” Hanke said. “They are visual blight.”

In 2002, San Francisco voters passed Proposition G prohibiting the installation of additional billboards. That was followed by an aggressive enforcement campaign in which all such 1,698 signs were inventoried and 721 illegal ones were removed. The billboard at 1650 Mission St. is legal.  

The board is expected to vote Tuesday on the billboard contract.

Hanke sent the board a letter asking supervisors to send the proposal back to committee for additional study.

“The board should be advised if such a massive billboard would discourage real estate development, thus pre-empting new taxes greater than the relatively miniscule billboard income,” Hanke wrote.

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