Bye-Bye Billboards, Or At Least Some Of Them

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This week saw the end of a long battle, and you probably didn't notice.

The last of the 831 small billboards cluttering Houston streets was taken down. It was taken down as a result of an ordinance passed in 19-freaking-80, but at least it was taken down.

(The ordinance has been tied up in litigation and negotiations since it passed.)

"Extensive negotiations really began [again] within a year or two of Bill White becoming mayor," attorney Jonathan Day, a board member of Scenic Houston, tells Hair Balls.

The billboards taken down by Clear Channel were mostly the smallest in use, the kind that are on busy surface streets. The truly annoying and ugly stuff -- the big billboards on the freeways -- are not in danger of disappearing anytime soon, Day says.

"The federal Congress protects the billboards on the federal highway system," he says.

While seeing the last of the smaller billboards go away "is a very positive thing and great for the city, it's not going to change the appearance of the freeways."

Day says White and Scenic Houston hope to come up with ways to limit billboards on the roads leading to and from the city's airports, but no concrete method of doing so has emerged.

When the 1980 law passed, Scenic Houston says, Houston "had more than 10,000 structures and was known as 'the billboard capital of the world.' " Now there are fewer than 4,000.

How Scenic Houston expects visiting businessmen to learn about strip clubs without billboards, we don't know.

-- Richard Connelly

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