With visitors coming to town for a high-profile sporting event next week, two high-rise buildings in San Francisco sold exterior ad space to Verizon and to Visa. There’s a problem, though: the ads, which are 15 and seven stories high respectively, are illegal, and the city wants them to come down before the Super Bowl.
The owner of the building with the 15-story Verizon ad, meanwhile, has 30 days to take the ad down. Since the point of having such an ad is for it to be visible to visitors and even TV viewers during the game
City Attorney Dennis Herrera called the ads “illegal and a public nuisance,” violating long-standing laws against such advertisements in San Francisco. “They’re an embarrassment to our city. They should be removed immediately and voluntarily, and my office is exploring our legal options to compel their removal if necessary,” he said to the San Francisco Chroncile. It’s one thing to promote a business on the building that houses that business, but selling billboards is legally distinct.
This isn’t like the photobombing accusations against Wells Fargo in Minneapolis, where the Vikings claimed that the bank’s signage on its own building much too legible in camera footage of U.S. Bank Stadium.
In San Francisco, the buildings sold space to advertisers Verizon and Visa, but through a series of apparent “misunderstandings,” the ads that went up were illegal. Temporary signage honoring a special event is okay with the city, and sometimes signage with the names of sponsors of that event are allowed, but in this case the billboards are too big and apparently don’t honor the Super Bowl enough.
Update: In a statement, Verizon said that they will take down the ad. “Because of honest misunderstanding between the City and the Host Committee about permissible signage under the Planning Code,” the company explained, “we have decided to remove our signage at Embarcadero 4.”