City Desk

Neighborhood Watch: Larger-Than-Life Billboards Moving Into Ward 5?


The Issue: A Got Milk?” ad splashed across the side of an eight-story building–new District landscaping? Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. has proposed “Special Signs” legislation, allowing them in commercial/industrial areas of his ward, including along heavily trafficked Rhode Island and New York Avenues NE. Thomas’ bill comes on the heels of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s "Billboard Blight Removal" resolution. Fenty’s bill offers "special signs" permits for industrial areas to billboard owners—including Clear Channel Outdoor—in exchange for the removal of existing billboards in residential areas (those are grandfathered in under ancient signage rules). But special signs “can cover a whole nine-story building if they want to,” says Ann Hargrove, of Scenic DC, a nonprofit geared toward visually enhancing the city. Blight?

No Billboards!: "I'm just mystified," says resident Sondra Hassan. "I know what billboards look like, and I don't see any public benefit." Others would like to see city efforts focused elsewhere: Plans to develop Ward 5 have long been in the making–the Great Streets plan, an arts district–but progress has stalled, says resident Linda Yahr. “Rhode Island Avenue is a main artery out of the city to Maryland,” she says. She complains that, instead of opening businesses where commuters can stop for dry cleaning, wine, and cheese on their way home, D.C. wants to paste up billboards: “How much do we pay these fools to manage our city so badly?”

Talk it Out: "A lot of people are scrambling" to understand the bill, says resident Caroline Petti, who only learned of Thomas' resolution recently. She believes he has "the best interest of Ward 5" in mind. One plus to leasing signage space on vacant buildings: It'd bring in a lot of money. Thomas says he wants to be sure his ward has clear signage rules, and that he's giving the community a chance to speak up before Fenty's bill moves ahead. Thomas' lets residents decide "what kind of special billboard will be in the neighborhood," if any at all, he tells City Desk.

What’s Next: "I am currently not opposed" to Fenty's resolution, Thomas says. The Ward 5 signage measure will be up for community discussion. The D.C. Council’s Committee on Public Services and Consumer Affairs was to hold a public hearing on the Billboard Blight Removal resolution today.

File photo by Darrow Montgomery

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • Skipper

    Thomas is a moron. He has no idea what he's talking about. Ask him whether Clear Channel's attorney wrote the bill for him. And who's Clear Channel's attorney? Why none other than Fred Cooke.

  • Pingback: City Paper Blogs « Heinz Duthel

  • Les

    I travel the Rhode Island Corridor everyday. Why are these peoople complaining? The billboards are already there. There's a Zip Car lot near 1715 Rhode Island Island which is a church that's had a huge Nescafe Coffee billboard and other billboard signs for about 2 years. No wonder Thomas wants more of these. There's no need to have an arts district along Rhode Island Avnue. Commuters like me want to see useful shops and businesses that can meets our needs.

  • noodlez



  • Steve LOWE

    Some investigative journalist should "follow the money". I am sure Clear Channel and/or others are promising to send real $$ to the politicians who get this approved. Will we ever know? Thomas has not made the case for this at all. NO to Special Signs ! just a new name for Billboards.

  • Anne D.

    Once again Councilmember Thomas fails to represent the best interests of his ward. Is there a viable contender to challenge him in the next election? His record on this and on backing charter schools in inappropriate locations should be enough to get him booted out of office.

  • Q!

    Please tell me I'm mistakenly reading this from the Onion and not the WCP. This is a joke right? Wrong on SO MANY levels.

  • Pingback: Colossal Billboards Headed to Gallery Place Despite Resident Outcry - City Desk - Washington City Paper

  • Pingback: Stop the Billboard! » Washington City Paper covers “Colossal Billboard” Issue