The 7,200-square-foot yellow Sprint advertisement along Mt. Washington was deemed unlawful by the City of Pittsburgh’s Zoning Board of Adjustments last week. The city is now insisting the sign be removed.
The sign is owned by local company, Lamar Advertising. It was installed in May of 2016, two years after the former owner, Bayer AG, stopped using it.
The city's Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections sent two zoning violations to the company in June, saying that the display didn't adhere to the requirements for advertising signs and was installed without the proper permits.
Lamar rejected the violations and never took the sign down, claiming it was no different than other billboards around the city.
The Zoning Board of Adjustments opinion said when the sign belonged to Bayer and was electronic, it only spent about 10 percent of the time rotating through advertising messaging. The rest displayed public service announcements, the time and a science quiz.
The board also found Lamar’s claim that the Mt. Washington sign was the same as the city’s other 900 billboards to be false, calling it “unsupported and unsupportable.”
In a statement, Mayor Bill Peduto said the city tried to compromise with Lamar, but was met with resistance.
“Lamar and Sprint have wasted taxpayer dollars by forcing us to defend the integrity of our city’s scenic hillsides in court,” Peduto wrote. “They must remove what has become an embarrassing eyesore.”
Peduto also called the sign “unsightly,” echoing past sentiments of other Pittsburghers.
Lamar has been fined in the past for refusing to take down the sign. Kevin Acklin, chief of staff for Mayor Peduto, said they could still try to ignore the order, but the city will contest them.
“You can lead a horse to water, they don’t always drink," Acklin said. "We’ll remain here, ready to have a conversation in good faith, but if they decide to appeal the decision, we’ll meet them back in court."
Lamar could not be reached immediately for comment.
This story has been corrected to accurately reflect the size of the sign, which is 7,200 square feet instead of 72,000 square feet.