Monday, July 20, 2009


Dead Newsracks Clutter SF Streets;

No Papers, Empty Boxes

For the past seven weeks, I've snapped pics of the many newsracks cluttering up the streets of San Francisco. The racks belong to the JC Decaux corporation and were subjected to a few First Amendment and public nuisance lawsuits, before being placed all around town, when ad dollars were flowing to newspapers, and the publications were healthy and plentiful. That's not the case anymore.

Whether we're talking mainstream dailies or weekly and monthly community newspapers, there are fewer dead tree papers, and some of the remaining ones have drastically scaled back their wide street-based distribution.

It's damn near-impossible to find a JC Decaux newsrack that is fully stocked with a variety of papers. They must exist. I didn't get to the financial district or other high foot-traffic areas where the racks are located, so maybe there are racks flush with newspapers and it's a matter of finding them.

On most weekdays, lots of racks have the Chronicle and the Examiner, a few have the Mercury News or an East Bay publication. Wednesdays are when the Bay Guardian and the SF Weekly put their rags out, adding to the small number of racks with something in the boxes. A large number of racks are always stocked with apartment or educational guides, but for the amount of space they take up, they sure don't justify their existence for a paltry number of papers or guides at anytime.

Why do these essentially bare containers take up so much of our urban landscape? Because JC Decaux has a long-term lease with the city to provide this news distribution system, and because on the backs of the newsracks are big ad spaces. The municipal coffers receive ad revenue from the ads on the backs of all the racks.

Can't something more constructive be done with the newsracks? I don't see the desperate need for the racks to stay on the streets, just to generate ad revenue for the city. Reducing the number of newsracks would be a good start at minimizing urban blight, but until that happens, maybe the boxes could be transformed into homes for flowers and plant. Or perhaps the city could commission artists to decorate the racks, and make them more pleasing to the eye.

UN Plaza, near the BART elevator. One box had a real estate guide.


Mission Street, near 4th. Bottom left is the Bay Area Reporter, on the right is the Bay Guardian.


North Beach, Green and Columbus Streets. Six boxes devoid of any dead tree publications.


Market Street, Near Sanchez. Top row had copies of Los Fronteras! and an alt-lifestyles resource guide. One bottom box had a rental apartment booklet.


Harvey Milk Plaza. A flyer for a writing class occupied the top right spot.


Castro, Near Market Street. The three occupied boxes displayed real estate guides.


Castro, near the Market Street crosswalk. Two boxes contained adult school guides.


Church Street, Between 14th and Market Streets. The SF Chronicle has the top left box, while a lonely real estate guide resides on the bottom row.


In front of Cafe Flore, on Market Street. An adult school booklet and some SF Chronicles take up two up of the top boxes.


Market Street, at Van Ness Avenue. That's the Mercury News on the top, and a auto sales guide on the bottom.


BofA building at Market Street and Van Ness Avenue. Basically blank save for an adult education booklet.


Market Street, near Fell Street. All hollow boxes.


Market Street, at the corner of 10th Street. Not a single paper in any of the containers.

McAllister Street, where Leavenworth Street begins. Another empty JC Decaux newsrack cluttering the streets.

3 comments:

Jeve (aka John and Steve) said...

Very true. I grew up in Alameda and when I visit SF it is weird to notice the emptiness. I do miss the Bay though.

John

sfmike said...

C'mon, Michael, you're an artist, and an anarchist artist at that. The answer is staring you in the face. Put some great dead tree info into the empty spaces.

Nice photo essay, by the way.

Anonymous said...

why not convert them to bicycle racks