October 09, 2008
Billboards today, AGDs tomorrow

Got the following email, which I thought was interesting:

Dear Super Neighborhoods,

In June 2008, Mayor White established an On-Premise Sign Task Force to make recommendations and improvements to the City of Houston 's Sign Code. One of the first recommendations of this group is to ban the use of Attention-Getting Devices in the City of Houston . The city has an ordinance that limits the use of these devices to 104 days per year, but because the days do not have to be consecutive, and can occur over the 365 day calendar year, it is difficult to enforce. In addition, the Task Force believes that it is important to eliminate this visual clutter, before it makes improvements to the sign code. Banners and on-premise signs currently compete for visibility with the AGD's, and they offer a less expensive alternative, that can be less distracting and can be structurally permitted. The prohibition of these devices does not affect the use of banners, seasonal holiday displays and banners, or real estate signs. In addition, the ordinance does not preclude the use of these devices for festivals, parties, or holiday celebrations.

I am attaching some pictures of AGD's in the city.

We appreciate your thoughts and input on this issue. I am available to answer any questions you have regarding this email.


Nancy Brewer Flores
Planning and Development Services
Public Works and Engineering

I've uploaded one of the sample pix here. Here's the document that was attached to the email as well:

On-Premise Sign Task Force
Attention-Getting Devices (AGDs)

Houston's current Attention-Getting Device (AGD) Ordinance is unwieldy and virtually unenforceable. As written, it states that AGDs are unlawful, yet in a separate section allows them, if permitted through the city's Sign Administration Department, for a limited number of days each calendar year. As these days do not have to be consecutive, enforcement of the ordinance has proven extremely difficult, especially given the sheer size of the city. This inability to enforce the ordinance has led to unfettered clutter and blight, which adversely affects the quality of life of its citizens.

The On-Premise Sign Task Force compared the current Houston ordinance governing AGDs with those of other U.S. cities to which Houston is frequently compared in terms of economic development and quality of life:

  • Atlanta

  • Baltimore

  • Boston

  • Charlotte

  • Chicago

  • Dallas

  • Indianapolis

  • Jacksonville

  • Memphis

  • Oklahoma City

  • Omaha

  • Philadelphia

  • Salt Lake City

  • St. Louis

  • San Diego

  • San Francisco

  • San Jose

These listed cities employ different methods to control the proliferation of AGDs. Some of these cities completely ban them. Other cities ban AGDs in certain districts. Some cities ban certain types of AGDs while allowing others. Some allow a very limited number of AGDs for specific occasions or time periods. All of these cities have an enforcement mechanism in place that prevents unruly clutter.

From this comparison review, the Task Force concludes that allowing AGDs in Houston is unnecessary for economic competitiveness or development. Further, the proliferation of AGDs causes dangerous driver distraction and creates an unwanted visual blight. Accordingly, the Task Force recommends a complete ban on attention-getting devices in the City of Houston.

Well, so much for Mr. Giant Inflatable Pink Gorilla Maker. I will stipulate that these things do grab one's attention. At least, they grab Olivia's - she likes to point out these things when we drive past them. I don't object to them the way I object to billboards - I can't fully articulate why, I just don't find them as obnoxious - but I also don't object to a stricter policy regulating them. What do you think?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 09, 2008 to Elsewhere in Houston
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