The title of this article is also the title of a study by Jonathan Snyder which was published in December 2011. Mr. Snyder, an urban planner and researcher conducted this study with a grant from the non-partisan Samuel Fels Fund of Philadelphia. He sought to answer the questions of what impact billboards have on real estate prices and what impact billboards have on values within census tracts in the City of Philadelphia. His research also covered the question of what impact billboard regulations have on median income, poverty rates, and vacancy rates in different cities in the United States.
His report is fascinating to read and the results confirm what most of know intuitively. Billboards harm our economy. To be more precise, “Beyond Aesthetics” found that “all properties within 500 feet of a billboard suffered a $30,000 decrease in property values upon their sale.” Mr. Snyder also concluded “that cities with strict sign controls have higher income rates, lower home vacancy, and lower poverty rates than cities without strict sign controls.” His conclusion came from an analysis of the sign codes of 20 U.S. cities.
We all know that if our home is located near a billboard this would affect our property value but, now we have the proof based on sound and thorough research.
More recently Director Gwenaelle Gobe premiered her documentary “This Space Available”, which includes interviews and visits to 11 countries on 5 continents. She shares the stories of people from around the world working to reclaim our public spaces from over commercialization and visual pollution.
Almost every major city in the United States is reviewing their regulations on signage because visual pollution has spiraled out of control. Rio de Janeiro recently joined Sao Paulo, Brazil in banning all billboards. They understand that the abuse of public space harms the visual appeal of our environment and impacts our economic health.
Visual pollution is no different than any other type of pollution. It is only different in that it is up in the air blocking our views rather than on the ground in the form of litter and should be considered a form of commercial graffiti.