Published July 23, 2013
SAN FRANCISCO – Planes with advertising banners may become a thing of the past in the sky above San Francisco.
San Francisco supervisors are mulling an ordinance that would ban aerial advertising above the city, despite the spotty success of such bans in other cities and questions over whether a potential ban would conflict with federal law.
Honolulu has an aerial advertising ban that was upheld by a federal appeals court, but other cities that have pursued the restriction have run into trouble, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
San Francisco's proposal comes after years of complaints about noise from planes carrying advertising banners by residents, particularly those around the ballpark where the Giants play.
"It's like having a migraine headache that just pounds and pounds," Alice Rogers, a 20-year resident of South Park, told the Chronicle. "It's a little deeper than a buzz. You can hear it even when your windows are closed."
Legal experts say a ban might violate free speech rights. The Federal Aviation Administration may also object, as it did in the case of the California city of Manhattan Beach. The agency said it plans to look into San Francisco's ordinance.
At its meeting Monday, a Board of Supervisors committee decided to put off considering the ordinance until next week to vet any legal complication the ban may cause.
"We want to make sure we go about it in a way that's both effective and right," San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim said at the committee meeting.
Kim said at Monday's meeting that the advertisements could be visually distracting to drivers and bicyclists.
In a 2007 letter to Manhattan Beach officials, FAA Acting Regional Counsel Naomi Tsuda said local regulations on flights that are more restrictive than federal law and are adopted because of noise concerns might conflict with federal law or the FAA's ability to effectively regulate navigable airspace.
The FAA also reportedly objected to Huntington Beach, Calif.'s ban on aerial advertising, the Chronicle said. The city repealed it in 2002 following court challenges, according to the newspaper.
Kim pointed to Honolulu's success. An anti-abortion group that wanted to fly banners with pictures of aborted fetuses above Honolulu challenged the city's ban. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, however, upheld it in a 2006 ruling.
The board's Land Use and Economic Development Committee recommended last week that aerial advertising over the America's Cup race course be banned. Kim said she and Supervisor John Avalos wanted to make the ban permanent and apply to the entire city.
Robert Franklin, president of Livermore, Calif.-based aerial advertising company Aerial Services, said a full ban would be devastating to his business. He runs seven or eight flights a week in San Francisco, and his clients have included labor unions and election campaigns in addition to commercial ads.
"Aerial advertising is about the only affordable free speech in the country," Franklin said