Sign up to fight
blight and get news
E-mail Address:

1315 Walnut Street
Suite 1605
Philadelphia, PA 19107


SCRUB's mission is to promote healthy, vibrant and beautiful public spaces throughout all of Philadelphia by using advocacy, public awareness and education, community mobilization and legal action.

SCRUB at the PUB 2009: May 3rd

Come meet other SCRUB supporters and join the growing chorus of public voices for public spaces! Finish off the weekend by enjoying complimentary hors d’ourves and open bar.

Date: Sunday, May 3rd, 2009
Time: 4:00pm - 6:00pm
Contribution: $25

Location: Irish Pub
2007 Walnut Street Philadelphia, Pa.

Click Here to Reserve Your Spot Now!
Or pay at the door

Many thanks to our generous sponsor, the Irish Pub

Pub Invite
(Click image above for full-size view)

Billboards on Newsstand Bill Voted Out of Committee: Passage Will Threaten Sign Laws All Over the City

Laws regulating outdoor advertising signs have enabled SCRUB to help residents breathe new life into neighborhoods once blighted by the proliferation of billboards. These laws are under threat by Bill 090015, which was voted out of committee last Tuesday by Councilmembers DiCicco, Green, Jones, Greenlee, and Quinones-Sanchez.

Over 500,000 square feet of outdoor advertising signs, including 8-sheets, wall wraps, graffiti ad campaigns, and towering billboard structures do not exist in Philadelphia as a result of the existing outdoor advertising sign laws and the successful legal challenges brought by neighborhoods and SCRUB in leveraging these laws.

Bill 090015 increases the size, amount and types of advertising signage permitted on newsstands. Currently, newsstand owners are limited to signs that promote periodicals and Pennsylvania Lottery products sold on-site; this legislation will allow newsstand owners to install non-accessory advertising for all kinds of products and businesses.

The bill carves out special exceptions to benefit private interests and seriously threatens the regulatory framework that has protected our public spaces from the proliferation of outdoor advertising for over 20 years.

Billboards and other non-accessory signage are prohibited in CenterCity and neighborhood commercial corridors where most newsstands are located. Prohibited sign technologies including electronic signs, video panels and illuminated curbside panels,would also be allowed on newsstand structures under the proposed bill.

The Newsstand Association worked closely with Councilman DiCicco's office to draft Bill 090015 which would give members special treatment and new freedom to install commercial advertising in the public right of way.

Testimony of City Administration
Steve Buckley, Director of Policy and Planning for the Deputy Director of Transportation, testified that "the Administration does not support the legislation in its current form."

He asked Councilmembers to hold the Bill and allow the Administration time to work with the public and vendors on a comprehensive streetscape and furniture plan that may include newsstands along with bus shelters, benches, and trash receptacles.

The goal of the street furniture program is to leverage the dollars earned through advertising in the public right-of-way to fund public amenities in all neighborhoods.

Neighborhood Concerns
SCRUB knows that our partners working in community development corporations and neighborhood-based organizations have been working tirelessly to revitalize neighborhood commercial corridors. Our current sign control laws have helped to improve the look and feel of neighborhoods. Bill #090015 is a direct assault on those laws.

This legislation will weaken the City's current sign controls for everyone. We all need to be playing by the same rules here. That's what good government is about," explained Mary Tracy, SCRUB Executive Director.

1. To learn more about this issue, read the testimony from the hearing posted on SCRUB's website

2. Contact District and At-Large Councilmembers about Bill 090015 and ask that they refuse to support it because it would harm revitalization efforts in neighborhoods by weakening our sign control laws.

Find Your Council District

Contact Information for Council Members

Supporting Documentation:

Transcript from Streets and Services Committee - 03.24.2009

Testimony from Streets and Services Committee - 03.24.2009

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has denied Fox Chase Cancer Center's "King's Bench Appeal"

A King's Bench Appeal is a special request for the high court to accept jurisdiction over an appeal Ryerss Museumrather than having to go through the lower court appeal process. Fox Chase Cancer Center filed appeals to both the Supreme Court and the Commonwealth Court challenging the decision of Orphans' Court Judge John Herron, denying a request to allow 19.4 acres of dedicated parkland to be used for private development. The Court ruled that under the Public Trust Doctrine, Burholme Park, must remain a park.

According to an article appearing in the Daily News a spokesman for Fox Chase stated that the administration is exploring options for expansion, including building within their own 14.5 acre campus. The Supreme Court's denial for special jurisdiction does not impact Fox Chase Cancer Center's earlier appeal filed to the Commonwealth Court. The Court has ordered attorneys representing Fox Chase to submit their brief with a copy of the reproduced record. Attorney Samuel C. Stretton, representing the neighbors and users of the Park, will submit a brief 30 days later.

Read Judge Herron's Opinion

Read Judge Herron's Ruling Granting Taxpayer Standing to Neighborhood Residents

FUEL Outdoor Erecting Illegal Billboards Across Philadelphia

A company called FUEL Outdoor has erected dozens of outdoor advertising signs bolted on free-standing poles or on the walls of parking garages. These signs are very similar to the old “eight-sheet” billboards. They are currently located in parking garages and parking lots in areas that prohibit outdoor advertising signs.

SCRUB estimates that Fuel Outdoor has already erected 96 sign faces in 49 locations. You will recall the blighting impact hundreds of the illegally erected eight-sheet billboards had when they proliferated in so many of our neighborhoods. For over two decades, community groups tried to secure enforcement of the law and removal of these illegal signs. 959 of these signs were removed in 2007.

According to, a Canadian-based urban environmental advocacy group:

Fuel Outdoor’s signs were installed without permits first in Los Angeles, which has a street furniture contract. Fuel Outdoor then challenged the advertising sign by-laws of Los Angeles, under the First Amendment and was successful in the lower courts, which ruled that Los Angeles cannot ban Fuel’s signs because it allows the same type of signs on transit shelters.

Emboldened by the lower court victory in Los Angeles, Fuel Outdoor installed the same signs illegally in other American cities that have Street Furniture contracts including: New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and San Francisco. There are currently outstanding challenges by Fuel Outdoor to the signs by-laws in San Francisco and New York. Those challenges in San Fran were stayed pending the outcome of an appellate court ruling in the Los Angeles case.

The ZBA will hear FUEL's request for a variance for 339 N. Broad Street on February 3, 2009 and 9:30 AM. The hearing will be held at 1515 Arch Street, 18th Floor.

List of FUEL's billboards in Philadelphia

Map and Photos of FUEL's billboards in Philadelphia

FUEL's ZBA Appeal Article on FUEL's New York City Billboards

FUEL's New York Complaint

LA Times: FUEL Loses in LA

California Court Ruling Affirming Los Angeles Ability to Ban FUEL's Illegal Signs

Trouble Brewing for Two Illegal Ad Campaigns
June 26, 2008)

SCRUB is turning up the heat on a major corporation and calling them out on their illegal ad campaigns.  Pabst Brewing Company, the fourth largest beer maker in America, is behind ads for Pabst Blue Ribbon and Colt 45 that have been spotted around the city on blank walls and abandoned buildings.  The ads for Pabst Blue Ribbon are fake "murals" featuring "artwork" submitted in a contest for Pabst drinkers.  But, even more outrageous are the "fake graffiti" style ads for Colt 45, seen below.

                                                                       (Photo by Bob Sola.)  

Pabst Brewing Company has been installing the ads around the city, with a high concentration in Kensington and Fishtown.  Community leaders alerted SCRUB about the campaigns and we took action right away.  We understand that L&I is currently investigating the ads and issuing the appropriate citations.

Read the news coverage from The Inquirer and the Associated Press.

SCRUB Continues to Fight for Taxpayer Standing
April 15, 2008)

SCRUB continues its fight for the rights of community groups to be heard at hearings of the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment. Click here to read an article advocating for taxpayer standing, which was written by SCRUB Program Director Nicole Seitz and appeared in the Legal Intelligencer last month.
ClearChannnel Announces Plans for Digital Billboards in Philadelphia
(Updated August 20, 2007)

Last August when Mayor John Street announced his administration's secret settlement with three players in the outdoor advertising industry, SCRUB voiced concerns about the impact of carte-blanche billboard legalization that gives up $9 million dollars in licensing fees.  Now, just a year later, the City is poised to allow ClearChannel to replace conventional billboards with high-tech, electronic billboards, granting yet another plum to the outdoor advertising industry at the expense of Philadelphia's visual environment and driver safety.

A photo from ClearChannel's website.  These digital billboards are in Milwaukee.

Read SCRUB's Press Release.

Read Scenic America's Billboards in the Digital Age: Unsafe at Any Speed.

Read the press coverage.

Five Illegal Billboards in Mayfair Removed
(Updated August 1, 2007)

SCRUB is delighted to report that five illegal rooftop billboards located at 7033 Frankford Avenue have been removed by ClearChannel.  The towering rooftop signs were erected in 1951 with a one year temporary permit. Both the Court of Common Pleas and the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania refused to overturn the Zoning Board's refusal to grant a variance allowing the signs to be legalized. The Commonwealth Court opined that the billboards became illegal in 1952 when the one year temporary permit expired and were not grandfathered in as Clear Channel suggested just because they existed prior to the passage of stricter laws. 

Many thanks to Attorney Samuel C. Stretton for providing dedicated pro bono legal services to Tacony Civic, Mayfair CDC and SCRUB and to Councilwoman Joan Krajewski and her staff for supporting revitalization efforts along the Frankford Avenue corridor.

Read the latest coverage in the Newsgleaner.

Philadelphia Foundation Awards SCRUB Grant for Strategic Plan
(Updated July 10, 2007)

The Philadelphia Foundation has awarded SCRUB a $17,775 grant which will fund a strategic plan for the organization. The Philadelphia Foundation�s Board of Managers approved the grant from the Henry Griffith and Anna Griffith Keasbey Fund on June 28th, according to R. Andrew Swinney, President of the Foundation.

Mary Tracy, SCRUB�s Executive Director, explains, �Just like a business, every so often we need to evaluate where we�re headed and plan for the future.  This is an exciting milestone for us and we�re thankful for The Philadelphia Foundation�s support.

As Southeastern Pennsylvania�s primary provider of philanthropic services, The Philadelphia Foundation manages more than 750 charitable funds established by caring families who want to give something back to their community.  Revenue generated from these funds provides grants and scholarships to over 1,000 cultural, educational and humanitarian programs, exactly as the donors intend.

"We�re proud of our accomplishments.  SCRUB�s work has prevented or removed over 450,000 square feet of outdoor advertising in Philadelphia.  In other American cities, buildings are being blanketed with ads.  Here in Philadelphia, we can still appreciate our built environment.� Adds Tracy, �The time is right for us to think about what comes next for SCRUB.�

A strategic plan will help SCRUB identify new opportunities for programming and fundraising and will guide the organization�s priorities over the next three to five years.  SCRUB has hired Fairmount Ventures as consultants for the planning process.  The plan should be completed by November 2007.


SEPTA Withdraws Wallwrap Proposal - For Now
(Updated June 14, 2007)

Late in the day on June 12th, SEPTA and their outdoor advertising contractor, Titan Outdoor, withdrew their application before the ZBA for a giant wallwrap on SEPTA's headquarters at 1234 Market Street.  The last minute change roused the ire of Zoning Board Chairman David Auspitz, who had scheduled a special hearing for the matter.  As a result, SEPTA and Titan cannot revisit the ZBA with this proposal for one year.

Read the latest coverage in The Inquirer.

SEPTA's Plans for a Giant Wall Wrap (Posted May 23, 2007)
ZBA Hearing Rescheduled to June 13th at 1:00
1515 Arch Street 18th Floor 

Photo taken May 2006 when SEPTA installed this campaign for Dunkin' Donuts without a permit.

On Wednesday May 16th, representatives and attorneys for SCRUB, East of Broad Improvement Association, and Citizens Bank appeared before the ZBA, prepared to testify against Titan Outdoor's request for a variance for a huge advertising wrap to be placed on SEPTA's building located at 1234 Market Street in Center City.  Titan's attorneys asked for a continuance which the board reluctantly granted.

Many thanks to Citizens Bank and East of Broad Improvement Association for their leadership in protecting the public interest and the visual character of Market Street's Commercial Corridor.

The public is invited to attend the next ZBA Hearing on this variance request scheduled for: June 13, 2007 at 1:00.

Read the article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.       

SCRUB sues City over Agreement with Billboard Industry (Posted March 8, 2007)

Today SCRUB announced the filing of a lawsuit challenging the validity of a private agreement between three billboard companies and the city’s law department, which  purports to repeal or relax numerous provisions of the zoning code, and strip legislators and aggrieved persons of any right to challenge the legality of those companies’ billboards.

This agreement (click to download pdf) rewrites every law that has ever been passed to control the proliferation of billboards in Philadelphia.  It is essentially legislation happening behind closed doors, written by the City Law Department in conjunction with three billboard companies.  There has been no community input, no transparency and no accountability.  That is why SCRUB, our elected officials and community leaders must intervene.

billboard in residential area
Located at the intersection of Lindbergh Ave and Grays Avenue in West Philadelphia, these two billboards are right next to a block of row houses.

More information about the agreement.

Read the full press release and view more photographs.

The complaint (click to download) was filed March 6, 2007, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  The plaintiffs include several community organizations and five members of Philadelphia City Council.  The Complaint alleges that the private agreement purports to overrule valid provisions of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania law regulating the legality, location, height, and size of billboards.  Plaintiffs allege that the agreement interferes with their right to seek redress in the courts, usurped the legislative power of the City Council plaintiffs, and interfered with the non-City Council plaintiffs’ right to be heard before government action that enacts or changes the law.  Plaintiffs allege that the agreement violates their rights under the United States Constitution and under Pennsylvania law.  Plaintiffs seek an order from the Court prohibiting the City from issuing any billboard licenses based on the agreement, and prohibiting the City from participating in private arbitration with the billboard companies under the terms of the agreement.

Download the press release

Commonwealth Court Hears Taxpayer Standing March 5 (Updated March 6, 2007)

On March 5th, 2007 at 1:00 pm, a Panel of Commonwealth Court judges held hearings for two cases denying the standing of taxpayers and communty groups. The Common Pleas Court had based its decisions for the two cases on the interpretation of a stealth amendment (Act 193) attached to an unrelated bill in 2004. Act 193 of 2004 was an attempt by friends of the billboard industry to remove Philadelphia's taxpayer standing, the historic right of citizens and community groups to appeal decisions of the Zoning Board.

city avenue billboard

The billboard at 3800 City Ave

The two Common Pleas Court cases were heard back-to-back, as they are related cases that both denied standing based on Act 193. The 3800 City Avenue decision by Judge Gary Glazer determined that SCRUB, the Wynnefield Heights Civic Association and the Belmont Village Association did not meet the new standard set by Act 193. In the 1630 Bainbridge Street decision, Judge Joseph Dych denied standing to a taxpayer who lived 1.5 blocks from the property. The Common Pleas Court ruled that the neighbor did not demonstrate direct or substantial interest beyond what members of the general public would experience.

At the Commonwealth Court hearing, Attorney Sam Stretton represented the community groups, and Rich Feder of the City Solicitor's Office represented the city. Both attorneys argued on behalf of taxpayer standing and requested that the court reverse the decisions rendered by Philadelphia Common Pleas Judges Joseph Dych and Gary Glazer.

Many thanks to over forty community leaders who attended. The impressive number of citizens who came to this hearing clearly demonstrated to the panel of judges that Philadelphians place a strong value on civic participation in zoning decisions. The judges did not rule from the bench but will take the matter under advisement. We will keep you posted.

Street Furniture or Commercial Clutter: An RFP to Expand Advertising in the Public Space
(Posted March 2, 2007)

This past January, the Philadelphia Department of Public Property released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a ‘Coordinated Street Furniture Program.’

city toilet

This RFP called upon advertising firms to submit proposals for a twenty-year contract which would allow them to reshape the streetscape of Philadelphia’s Center City District (CCD). According to the RFP, street furniture, such as Automated Public Toilets (APTs), transit shelters, news stands, advertising kiosks/display panels, honor box corrals, benches, and trash receptacles will provide a “coordinated and cohesive appearance,” that reflect the city’s “neighborhoods, historic and cultural districts and park sites.”

While residents may benefit from the practical use of these amenities, as well as the small increase in city revenue, the devil is in the details. Automatic Public Toilets (APTs) are costly ($250,000 a piece) and the idea is to fund them by allowing a large quantity of street furniture to be installed.

These new structures will generate profits for the advertising company that wins the contract. The city has requested thirty-five public toilets for various locations in the city. In return, the company will be able to advertise on the existing 272 transit shelters, build an additional 422 shelters and erect as many advertising kiosks, LED displays, trash receptacles, news stands and advertising benches as they need to compensate for their investment in the public toilets. ��

Citizens� skepticism runs high when they are shut out of the process. The City Administration failed to consult neighborhood residents, city council members or Philadelphia�s design community before issuing this broad invitation for advertising in the public space. In issuing this RFP, the administration has stifled public access and discussion. It has also ignored laws regulating outdoor advertising and commercial advertising passed by Philadelphia�s elected officials. The �Coordinated Street Furniture Program,� if not analyzed and planned for in a thorough and pluralistic manner, will compromise the beauty and vitality of Philadelphia. � Let�s do it right. Open up the process to the public and include design professionals and community leaders who will ensure that the end result enhances the city�s streetscape for present and succeeding generations.�

Read the Daily News Article on the street furniture program.
Download the "Request for Proposals for a Coordinated Street Furniture Program" issued by the Department of Public Property.

SCRUB is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit corporation. The official registration and financial information of the Society Created To Reduce Urban Blight may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll-free, within Pennsylvania 1-800-732-0999. Registration does not imply endorsement.

Quick Links:

New! An interactive map of unlicensed billboards that will be legalized as a result of the agreement.
Icon for billboard map

Street Furniture RFP

Billboard Settlement Agreement

Signage Resource Center
Upcoming Hearings
Taxpayer Standing
Download SCRUB's Newsletter (3.45mb)
SCRUB's Legal Cases
City of Philadelphia Codes for
Non-Accessory Outdoor Signs
City Government Contact Information
How to Report a Zoning Code Violation
Billboard Finder