Mayor Lee Proposes Turning City Hall Into a Giant Billboard

Advertising has its place, and according to Mayor Ed Lee, one of those places is the side of City Hall.

[jump] As the Examiner reports, Mayor Lee is floating a proposal to turn the east side of City Hall into a digital billboard for light and multimedia displays. The Empire State Building in New York allows such advertising, although that’s admittedly a bit different — the Empire State Building isn’t the center and symbol of city government.

“We believe this display option can enhance special events held at City Hall, the Main Library and the Asian Art Museum, thus affording the city’s General Fund a revenue opportunity from event sponsors,” John Updike, director of real estate, told the Board of Supervisors in a July 27 letter.

The Mayor’s proposal has already generated pushback.

According to the Examiner, one critic is Supervisor John Avalos, who quipped, “Like City Hall brought to you by Facebook, Salesforce, Big Brother of Public Private Partnerships Ron Conway?”

While general advertising wouldn’t be permitted on City Hall, company names likely would be, as would ads from companies sponsoring civic events. Critics say this sends the message that City Hall is literally for sale.

Milo Hanke, former president of SF Beautiful, told the Examiner that light displays were “tacky as hell” and “prostitut[ed] the best values” of the city.

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