Friday, September 30, 2011

DPW: Why SF Streets 
are Cluttered With News Racks

(Eight-slot rack, with only one slot in use, on Castro near Walgreens.)


Former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown in the late 1990s engineered a 20-year deal involving JC Deaux, Adshel and Clear Channel ridding sidewalks of individual messy newspaper boxes, replacing them with multi-slot, sleek news racks. At the time, newspapers were rolling in money and the web hadn't seriously dented their profits or affected how they do business.

Fast forward to today, the publishing industry has been radically downsized, papers have either folded or seriously cut back on distribution, and the web has drastically upended delivery of the news to consumers.

Yet, our public street space is cluttered with the largely empty news racks, serving a dwindling number of publishers who are not properly maintaining their slots with newspapers.

I recently asked the Department of Public Works questions about these matters, and Grace Moore and colleagues have provided me with details about how we got to this point, and also claim that nothing can be done to stop the placement of new pedmounts or removing all the useless news rack. In short, IMO, Brown sold prime public real estate to the news rack industry and there's little citizens can do to reclaim our sidewalks.

Every time I pass one of the crappy news racks, I think to myself, more Willie Brown fecal matter blighting San Francisco.

While I of course embrace the First Amendment and am sympathetic to the plight of newspaper publishers, I find it deplorable that the news industry is granted special rights to place superfluous street furniture on too many street corners. The First Amendment is alive and well on the web, and publishers should abandon their romantic attachment to horse-and-buggy delivery.

If it's not too much trouble, can the public have more of the public sidewalk returned to us, but radically consolidating the existing empty news racks, and halting installation of any new ones, until there is a full public discussion on the situation?

Here's the info from DPW:

The publishers name and contact information that you requested is listed below. Publishers have paid $50 for each box space through the end of 2011 as required by the News Rack Ordinance. In order to receive a box space in a pedmount unit, publishers are required to submit an application and pay the required fee prior to occupying the box space. DPW has no "written agreements" with these publishers for the occupation of their boxes. Provisions for the placement, removal or relocation of pedmount news racks are outlined in Article 5.4, Section 184.12 of the Public Works code.

A public hearing for the proposed pedmount installations in the Castro neighborhood was conducted at the Newsrack Advisory Committee in December 2005. See the attached fact sheet; “Steps to Establish and Implement a Fixed Pedestal Zone”.

DPW was notified by Clear Channel Outdoors on September 6th with information that they asked to remove units 140 and 141 temporarily to allow for sidewalk construction work at the BofA on Castro. We were informed that the units would be reinstalled 2-3 weeks later. Clear Channel Outdoors is required to post notice 72 hours in advance of reinstallation according to 2.4.50 of the Public Works Excavation Code.

The city has no authority to stop or delay the reinstallation of those units. Publishers have sued the City many times alleging the City infringement of their rights to use public sidewalks to distribute under the First Amendment. Pedmount units are intended as an attractive alternative to the individual free standing racks. As we understand the current law, the city cannot ban the use of news racks on public sidewalks.

As I’ve mentioned to you, we are in the process of evaluating pedmount news rack locations throughout the city to determine where we can downsize or eliminate units based on the existing need. Before we can do that, we must offer an opportunity for publishers to apply for empty box spaces. (Currently there is a 14% vacancy in the Castro pedmount units.)

Pedmount unit locations throughout the Castro will be accessed and a determination made by the end of 2011.


Pedmount Units 140 and 141
140
CASTRO ST: 18TH ST - SE corner
 Unit 140

1
2
3
4
A
SAN FRANCISCO BAY GUARDIAN
JOBS & CAREERS
REAL ESTATE BOOK
S.F. WEEKLY
B
OAKLAND TRIBUNE
THIS BOX IS EMPTY
OPEN EXCHANGE
THIS BOX IS EMPTY





141
CASTRO ST: 18TH ST  SE corner
 Unit 141

1
2
3
4
A
CHRONICLE, SAN FRANCISCO
CASTRO COURIER
GOLDEN GATE UNIVERSITY
EXAMINER
B
REAL ESTATE TIMES
ASIAN WEEK
S.F. STATE UNIVERSITY CATALOGUE
UC BEREKELY CATALOG

Publisher’s Contact Information
1
ASIAN WEEK
5
GOLDEN GATE UNIVERSITY
11
S.F. STATE UNIVERSITY

JESUS CORONEL

LAURA BROWNE

YVETTE KOTH



2
CASTRO COURIER
6
JOBS & CAREERS

ALEX POPOVICS

ANDY SYWAK

RICK RAKER



12
S.F. WEEKLY
3
CHRONICLE
7
OAKLAND TRIBUNE

WESLEY CHUNG

KEN KIM

MIKE SWITZER



13
GUARDIAN

TOM REILLY
8
OPEN EXCHANGE

DAN BRUGMANN


BART BRODSKY

4
EXAMINER

14
UC BEREKELY CATALOG

MIKE HIGGINS

ALEX POPOVICS

LISA MCLAUGHLIN




NOEL NEECE
9
REAL ESTATE BOOK

ALEX POPOVICS


PAUL REYNOLDS


PAT BROWN




10
REAL ESTATE TIMES



EDIE ALEJANDRE

SCOTTY YAFFE







2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why are there ad panels on the back of some units? The ordinance does not allow in the Castro Area??

Michael said...

those ads bring in some bucks for the city's coffers, but that is no reason to keep these empty pieces of useless street furniture on the streets. there are plenty of other ads on kiosks and billboards.