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.
Castro, Near Market Street. The three occupied boxes displayed real estate guides.
Castro, near the Market Street crosswalk. Two boxes contained adult school guides.