Clearing the Billboard, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Truthout.org’s photostream

Scenic Pittsburgh believes in the intrinsic beauty of our city. They know that our scenic vistas are not only good for the soul, they are good for tourism and our local economy. Their mission is to “preserve, protect and enhance the scenic beauty of the Pittsburgh region” and they do this by trying to save our city from the visual pollution of billboards. This issue is increasingly important as electronic billboards have made their way onto the scene. Scenic Pittsburgh notes:

Zoning regulations do not address the new technologies that make billboards brighter and more intrusive than ever. New electronic billboards present new hazards as they distract drivers with multiple moving messages. Most billboards in Pittsburgh, built before zoning regulations were enacted, are not in compliance with current zoning requirements. Content control for billboards is limited so ads can contain sexually explicit content or vile and hateful messages.

Most people agree with the idea that billboards add clutter and despoil our cityscapes and landscapes. Unfortunately, PA law makes it difficult to acquire the land that billboards occupy. Also, under our state laws, most billboards in Pittsburgh enjoy grandfathered legal status. Otherwise, hundreds of non-conforming billboards would be illegal. Scenic Pittsburgh, therefore, concentrates mainly on banning the construction of new billboards. They had a recent victory in downtown Pittsburgh. They went to court to demand that a giant 1,900-square-foot LED billboard and ticker on the Grant Street Transportation Center that had been illegally placed be removed. Scenic Pittsburgh won their suit and now the sign will have to be taken down by its owner — Lamar Advertising — by September 1st and Lamar will have to pay for the removal.

Scenic Pittsburgh is a project of the Pennsylvania Resources Council and is an affiliate of Scenic America (a nonprofit advocacy organization solely dedicated to removing visual blight). Scenic Pittsburgh is looking for qualified and dedicated individuals to become members of their Board of Advisors. They want people who are “passionate about preservation and dedicated to the notion that natural, artistic, architectural scenic beauty should be protected.” If you are interested in serving a good organization and protecting our scenic treasures, you can fill out an application here.