tv [untitled] February 28, 2011 8:00am-8:30am PST
process of going through a waiver. >> all right. thank you. >> director? bamut is it possible to get a list of questions from the commission that they would like answered for the next budget presentation so that staff does know what they want presented to them and what they do not want presented to them, so we can kind of be on the same wavelength? commissioner murphy: i'll have a list of questions for you this afternoon. >> can i ask the other commissioners, if you have any questions, to get them to me by friday. commissioner murphy: i would like the other commissioners to weigh in on this as well if they have questions. >> you can e-mail it to me, and i can put them together in case there is duplication, and i can put them all together and give them to the director. ok. can we have a motion for adjournment? move to adjourn?
>> special meeting of the san francisco planning commission for thursday, february 24, 2011. please turn off your cell phones, pagers, or any other electronic device that may sound off during these proceedings. commissioner moore. commissioner sugaya. commission olaguey, commission borden. commission fong is absent this morning. the items on calendar, item one is informational presentation on the advertising program. this is your annual report.
>> commissioners, good morning. dan snyder with the planning department staff. i'm here this morning to give you your annual update on the department's general advertising sign program, our written report is included in your packet for today's hearing. and we do have additional copies up front for anyone in the audience today who would like. before we get into the meat of things, commissions are, i'd like to call your attention to the front row, where the key staff in our program are seated today. the entire program staff is here today because among other reasons, we all wanted to be here to give you some good news. but first, and just to set the stage if 2003 could have the overhead, ms. secretary, please. prop g passed in 2002, a voter initiative that prohibited new advertising signs in the city, passed with 78% of the vote between in then and 2006 the city adopted and defended various regulationses that
enabled our program. we kicked off in 2007 and meaningful enforcement activities began the start of 2008. before anything else we do need to talk about what a general advertising sign is. a general advertising signs direct attention to activities or services or businesses which are conducted or located off site. they're also called outdoor ads , general advertising signs or posters, billboards, and so forth. business signs on the other hand are signs that direct attention to activity on site, on the premises and are distinct from general advertising signs. our program only deals with general advertising signs. the overhead is a bit squished but hopefully it's still legible. what is our program all about? commissioners, we have built and maintained an inventory of
every general advertising sign in san francisco. and the program also has a very robust function where we determine the legality of each sign andtaining en format action ifs appropriate. on if first point we have completed assembling the inventory. this was done a number of summers ago. we literally had enforcement teams walking every single block in san francisco taking copious notes and using then current technology to do so. this work was supplemented by inventories submitted by individual general advertising sign companies. we've built an exhaustive data base of precise locational and physical information on each sign along with permit information and photographic records. we've got a lot of information on those signs that are here in san francisco. the second point, commissioners, and this is where the really big news is, we have finished the review of
each of the 1,672 general advertising signs in san francisco. we've done site inspections, crute newsed permit histories, taken enforcement action ifs called for. we've issued 681 separate notices of violations and after three years of enforcement work we're done. and we're done on time and we're done on budget. as a staff we're really, really pleased to see so many years of work come to this great ending. or really great milestone i should say. so let's check that off, shall we? just because we are done it doesn't mean we get to sort of kick back and relax. i'll run through a few slides that talk about what we've done and how we've done it and talk about the next steps for the program. here's the process that we have gone through here. when we look at a sign we look at its physical characteristics, its height, size, orientation.
we make sure it's consistent with the permit or that it has a permit in the first place. if not we issue a notice of violation. it carries a 30-day window during which time a violation must be abated or a request for reconsideration must be filed. this is essentially an appeal of the notice of violation. it's right before an administrative law judge rather than before this body or the board of appeals or the board of supervisors. should no request be filed and no action taken to abate the violation penalties begin to accrue. these penalties do add up quickly. for example an unauthorized sign larger than 500 square feet will have a daily penalty of $2,500. moving on to talk about this year's progress and really what we've found, i said earlier we have processed 100% of the roughly 1,700 signs in san francisco. commissioners, the top half of
this pie chart, the different shades of green comprise about 53% of the city's signs and they're signs that are either in compliance or will be in compliance with the planning code. and it's worth noting here that that roughly 50%, 53% figure of legality has remained constant throughout the program's three years of enforcement work. the bottom half of the pie chart in the red and yellow house, this is 47% of the sign inventory, these are signs which do not and cannot comply with the plank code. both those that have been removed and those that are required to be removed, let me reiterate that. nearly half of the billboards in the city are illegal. that's a pretty big point we'd like to make. of these, the team has already caused the remfl of about 3/4. so if you're keeping up with your math that means that the work of the sign program has resulted among other things in
the removal of 588 general advertising signs, mostly illegal. put that in context, it works out to about four signs down for each week that we've been on the job. but turn -- let's turn now to the program's results before the administrative law judge. again, these are cases where the n.o.p. is essentially appealed and i draw your attention to the single license on the chart on the bottom. that orange slice representation represents single case where the department's notice of violation has been overturned. of the remaining 28 cases, the department has either prevailed or the matter resolved without a hearing based on new information. so here, too, we are very pleased with the program's results. commissioners, i would be remiss in my responsibilities if we didn't talk about legal matters relating to signs. the program has resolved nine
separate pieces of litigation while an additional four cases are outstanding. the yellow color on this chart represents legal actions taken against the planning code or other broad policy positions taken by the city. the blue color represents actions initiated against the city with regard to particular signs, particular sign decisions. we believe that we are over the hump here, litigationwise but we're clearly not done yet. so where are our signs? one of our legal wins this year was a settlement agreement. this allows us to share with you certain information about our sign ivetri. a number of years ago the city was sued by an association of sign companies alleging that our detailed sign inventory was in fact their trade secret. they did manage to convince a
judge their position had at least some merit. because of this in years past we've only been able to show you very generalized information about the location of signs. images like this. we of course have a great deal more information but in years past we couldn't show you. that's changed. as of just a few weeks ago, we've been able to disclose a great deal more information based on a settlement agreement we did enter into, and walk over to the computer for a second, i can back out of this, -- point your browser to signmap.ss.planning.org and you will see the following. okay. we have here an interactive map of every general advertising sign as defined in the planning
code located in san francisco. we can zoom in. let's zoom in, if we can, on venice avenue. we're here in city hall and if we want to take a look at one of these signs right here all we have to do is click on it and up pops a photo. this can be done anywhere for any of the general advertising signs in the city. it is a google map so you can interface with it as you would any kind of conventional consumer google product, i suppose. satellite views and so forth. i would emphasize that this is
a sort of a version that is in testing, a beta version, we continue to refine it in terms of the interface and the information available on it. but i would encourage you all to certainly visit signmap.ss .org. >> did you add the coca-cola sign to this? >> as i said, it covers general advertising signs as defined in the planning code. sorry, i couldn't resist. [laughter] >> let's move on, shall we? talk about the program's
financial -- very big picture of that, issues here, commissioners. on the expense side of the house, we are of course spending a good deal of money on attorneys. about a quarter million dollars, a little more than last year spending on staff costs internally. for us this is the cost of doing business. i hate to put it in these terms but our legal folks are sort of a necessary evil. on the revenue side of the house, sign companies do pay an annual fee to maintain their general advertising signs here in the city. this accounts for about half of our income. the other half largely comes from penalties. on this next slide you'll see a great deal of those penalties, about $7 million are tied up in court right now. i would point out though, that we have collected cash in hand about $600,000 to date over the
past three years of the program's activities. the top-level take away without getting into the minutia, we are solvent. annual income and expenses circle around the $550,000 mark. what's next? the inventory has been processed, the team will move into a different phase of the program. drop some excess weight, it will be staffed by a single full-time equivalent moving forward and it will be foaled into the department's broader code enforcement efforts. we are going to continue to maintain the sign inventory and use it as a tool to monitor existing signs and certainly to help us take enforcement action against new complaints. last year we saw 65 new illegal signs pop up throughout the city. this year we saw 98. we have been effective enforcing against new signs but
it's very important of course we continue to be vigilant and take action when appropriate. we have, commissioners, just sort of wrapping up here, we've got to superb staff -- a superb staff. as i said earlier they're here in the front row. i'd like them to stand up so i can embarrass them. john purviss our program program coordinator and christine la morena, kimberly deronde along with elaine forbes with the san francisco, helped frame the program and did much of the heavy lifting in years past and mike wynn has been indispensable in building our g.i.s. systems and various web applications. i can't say strongly enough, commissioners, this group of folks is the reason for the program's successes. i'd also add that we've certainly enjoyed the excellent
services of what does feel like at times the entire city attorney's office. but certainly we owe a great deal of gratitude to the folks in mr. herrera's shop for their great work. so many are others, too many to name at the planning department and elsewhere. my thanks to you, my apologies for taking up so much of your time this morning but i'm here to answer your questions and probably more usefully, the team, the real experts are here to respond to your questions as well. so thank you. >> thank you. let's open it up for public comment. >> my name is feeter per fortune on on the board of san francisco beautiful, representing that nonprofit. you may or may not know that in 2002 we were instrumental in getting proposition g on the ballot. as recently as 2006-2007 this
report was a dream for those of us who think billboards are a visual blight. it would have been a nightmare for the billboard industry. let me explain why. about eight years ago, a little billboard company sued a big there was some startling deposition testimony in that case. one of the former high executives of clear channel was deposed and he admitted when he worked for clear channel he learned that clear channel had scores and scores of illegal billboards throughout the city. when he was asked the question when you learned about these illegal billboards, did you do anything? his answer was, why should i? he was thumbing his nose at san francisco. that attitude is no longer. it's gone. and it's gone primarily because of the work of dan snyder and the staff in the 2006
litigation. and we're here to applaud them and to praise them and make sure that they get their kudos that they well deserve. thank you. president olague: thank you. is there any additional public comment? >> good morning, commissioners. my name is terry milne, a citizen of vernal heights and i have to tell you earlier this week the question was asked whether or not the arts commission is in charge of historic neighborhood murals of the sort that you may or may not know about in bernl heights just because they're a pay ordery of an advertising sign makes in them no less a neighborhood mural that's been there for decades. so i don't know the answer whether the arts commission is
really responsible, but i just thought i'd bring it to your attention. thank you. president olague: thank you. is there additional public comment? seeing none, public comment is closed. commissioner moore? ms. moore: i'm totally psyched about the thing, i thank the director. i wish we had a strike team and mechanisms for everything else going wrong in the city and we would be just kind of looking great. this is fantastic. i do love the layering of technology, i love the ability that we really put effort and support into this group and the results really are what they need to be and it's finally saying enough is enough. it is great that technology is helping us, i mean as in other parts, other issues in the world, technology has opened a whole new ability to communicate and really be on target and able to pursue things which need to be changed. what i would like to ask mr.
snyder, the whole group, at what time do you generally -- do general signs, general advertising signs are the same as business signs? because in the city there is a very slow and subtle conversion that advertising signs take over whole storefronts and since the stores are empty and they're advertising for other things, they are a different kind of billboard. for example, what comes to mind, again, it never stops, what comes to mind is the corner of powell and coast, the former disney store which now has a sign by c.b., coldwell banker in their advertising for whatever product, i don't know, besides making the point you could contact them if you want to rent the space. but this is basically advertising not for on site but for off site. it's a very subtle thing. i see this happening because
even in other parts of the city, i see signage, something i brought to the department's attention almost two years ago at the corner of california and stockton, i think clear channel has on building signs which are -- which are really general advertising signs. but they sit on a residence. so you don't quite know how they got there in the first place. normally these signs are not on residences, this takes up 35ur of the east facing facade of the building on the corner of california and stockton. as you look closer with this legislation and these tools in place, there are new challenges. i'd love to continue to communicate with you about it. i think ultimately it's really people talking to each other and saying what does it fit and where does it not fit. i love your financial performance, that is obviously liquid gold to our ears, and
again, congratulations to everybody and i hope the director will find other strike teams and other areas where we can do exactly the same team that this group is doing. president olague: commissioner antonini. commissioner antonini: a couple of interesting things that commissioner moore brings up. i don't know what our particular situation is with these window signs that are in vacant storefronts now, but there's a couple ways of looking at it and certainly it would be better to have that in my opinion than to have a storefront boarded up and covered with graffiti. part of the price might be we'll allow to you advertise as long as you maintain it and of course maybe a fee, i agree. i think that that might be a way to do it where part of the responsibility of the property owner or the advertiser, whomever pays it will be to take care of the building and maybe some kind of a fee. it may be something to look
into. another interesting dilemma is the coca-cola sign in bernl heights mentioned by commissioner sugaya. you're dealing with something that might be art, i think this particular sign had been covered by asbestos siding until recently and the siding came off and many of these older signs are advertising products that no longer exist and i don't think anybody would have an objection to those probably, but since it's not, you can't buy the product, but if it is a plod that still exists that will be an interesting question. but i think that it will be one we're going to have to ponder. and finally, thank you very much for a wonderful job. you didn't speak about in lieu, it was in our report and i don't know if the public is aware of those signs, i don't know whether if it's worth mentioning or not but it was part of our scuggeds during the time we first moved into this field. in lieu signs. >> commissioner antonini, you
point out there is a glaring omission on my part. in lieu signs were certainly something we spent a great deal of time on. in lieu applications were made available in i want to say the period of time ending about october of 2003, or until that time sign companies were afforded the opportunity for particular signs for which no permit could be located to submit documenting information to evidence that the sign was in fact likely legally authorized. the commission at the time adopted a series of criteria for us to use in judging the granting or what have you of those applications. if i can have the overhead for just a second -- right here, pie chart representing the 321 separate applications we had
for in lieu signs in the city. the majority of these about 61% were disapproved. this is to say that signs for which no application -- i'm sorry no permit could be located were more often than not found to be illegal and required to be removed. there were 39% of the 321 applications submitted that were found to be legal and my apologies for not bringing that up earlier in the presentation. >> thank you. president olague: commissioner miguel. commissioner miguel: i greatly commend you and your team on the work echoing san francisco beautiful in that regard. but i think it's also an example not only of department enforcement but the concept where people complain in san francisco and some maybe rightly so, about fines and fees.
this is a situation where you have proven without a doubt that the proper application of fines and fees to cover costs are exactly in line. and that's what government should do. and to me, this is a perfect example of that. president olague: commissioner sugaya. commissioner sugaya: a couple questions. first, on the new illegal signs, can you describe how you find new illegal signs? i mean i assume some may be citizens that call in, but maybe you could describe to us. >> i'm the department staff. typically we receive complaints via email or phone from the public. also during our field visits we sometimes come across these
signs and just by working with the signs every day know that they weren't there previously. but the majority of our complaints come in via email or phone. commissioner sugaya: thank you. a second question. a lot of places around downtown they have -- there are businesses that have these sidewalk boards or blade signs or whatever they're called, sandwich boards. are those considered to be general advertising and are those regulated through this program or are they part of the d.p.w. or sidewalk and mapping or whatever? >> commissioner, the -- commissioner sugaya: or are there no rules? >> there are rules. the signs you're referring to, a-frames or sandwich boards are usually placed on the sidewalk typically nearby but not always a particular establishment. they are subject to the regulations of the department
of public works and the police department. we don't have jurisdiction on the sidewalk. i would say the police code does prohibit categorically those types of signs. commissioner sugaya: thank you. this is really good work, you guys. president olague: i want to thank staff for all the work and also san francisco beautiful for being so vigilant on this matter so many years. as you mentioned earlier you kind of got us to where we were within the department. i wanted to make mention of that. mr. sanchez -- >> i wanted to briefly but sincerely express my deepest gratitude to all the gasp staff and i think this is such a tremendous achievement for all the department, lasting benefits for the city and i know it has not been easy, there have been many sophisticated legal challenges as mr. snyder noted, but you guys have used technology tremendously to improve the