University of Southern California

Controlling Supergraphics: A New Challenge Facing Local Governments Aiming to Limit the Spread of Advertising and Prevent Visual Bight

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Note by Lauren Glaser
From Volume 89, Number 1 (November, 2015)

People do not like billboards. These off-site signs, or signs advertising goods and services not available in the near vicinity, allegedly create visual blight, cheapening communities and cluttering the landscape. In addition, they have proven to be hard to control. Local government ordinances aimed at limiting the spread of outdoor advertising and controlling its visual impacts are continually challenged by the well-funded billboard industry. While courts have developed criteria, which often incorporate guidance from the Supreme Court, for determining whether billboard-control ordinances are legal,5 new technologies in the outdoor advertising industry require local governments to update their regulations and include new definitions to maintain visual protections. Specifically, supergraphics, or oversized signs painted on or attached to building façades, are becoming popular in many areas. This new type of sign results in the same negative visual impact as traditional billboards and is often significantly larger in size. In addition, because supergraphics are often vinyl or mesh affixed to a building façade, they can be erected without the investment in infrastructure required to create a traditional, pole-standing billboard. This means that supergraphics are easier and cheaper to erect, while often creating much more visual disruption.

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