Sign of times: Mid-Market ads plan hits ballot
By: Brent BeginExaminer Staff WriterJuly 2, 2009
Moving forward: There’s rarely agreement on how to proceed with redeveloping the mid-Market area, despite years of efforts. (Mike Koozmin/Special To The Examiner)
SAN FRANCISCO —
A piece of the Market Street makeover may be ready for showtime.
Backers of an initiative that would allow moving signs, electronic ads and illuminated billboards smaller than 500 square feet on the busy thoroughfare between Fifth and Seventh streets say they have collected more than 12,000 signatures to put the measure on the November ballot.
The rough-and-tumble area is on the verge of a boom, and initiative backer David Addington thinks the billboard idea has a chance.
The measure required 7,168 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
"The first time we came up with this idea four years ago, there was swift opposition," Addington said. "This time, we looked at some of the details. That tends to wiggle away some of that opposition."
Owners of the billboards would receive a bulk of the proceeds, but 20 to 40 percent would go toward a ticket booth in nearby Halliday Plaza, regular cleaning in the neighborhood and arts education for children and youth.
Revitalizing the mid-Market area has been the goal of city officials for years, but rarely is there agreement on how to proceed. Recent development in the area, however, is keeping hopes up for the neighborhood.
Addington said the owners of popular Mission district restaurant Foreign Cinema are ready to start a new restaurant, Showdogs, near The Warfield theater, which he has owned since 2005.
There are murmurs that Original Joe’s restaurant will reopen. The Shorenstein family, which owns Golden Gate Theatre, is looking to have arts-themed tenants at 25 Taylor St., and the Exit Theatre is working on expansion, according to Amy Cohen of the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development.
Property owner Jack Sumski has sunk more than $1 million into 55-62 Taylor St., on the edge of the special sign district, where a multimedia arts studio space is set to open within weeks. For him, turning a porn theater into an arts center was widely accepted.
"It’s not a money-making venture," Sumski said. "If I had done nothing, I would have better off."
But Addington, who came to San Francisco for a second stint six years ago and bought The Warfield in 2005, is sure to face opposition. New advertising has been scorned by San Francisco voters and politicians alike for decades, starting during the 1967 beautification of Market Street in which old marquees and signs were torn down.
In 1997, the Board of Supervisors killed a plan to allow electronic signs and other garish advertisements in Union Square. Five years later, with the backing of the organizations SF Beautiful and the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association, more than 77 percent of voters approved Proposition G, which prohibited new outdoor billboards.
After looking at the new ballot measure, Sheila Kolenc of SF Beautiful said the organization was already against it.
"There’s a beautiful quietness about San Francisco," Kolenc said. "People don’t come here for glitz. They go to Times Square for that."
AEG Live, the leaseholder of the Warfield, shares the same owners as Clarity Media, the parent company of The Examiner.