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ABOUT SCENIC HOUSTON

OUR MISSION & VISION 

Scenic Houston strives to champion the livability and visual quality of public spaces in our community. By 2028, Scenic Houston will be a national model for championing livability and visual quality in a growing and diverse community.

Our Core Values: 

 

  • Purposeful. We are intentional and determined so that we may accomplish our goals in the face of challenges – seen and unseen.

  • Forward-Thinkers. We are innovative in our thinking and actions to support our mission.

  • Resourceful. We use our financial, volunteer, staff and partnership assets efficiently to make the biggest impact.

  • Facilitate. We engage and include a diversity of voices and partners in our work.

  • Committed. We are dedicated to making a lasting impact for generations to come.

OUR HISTORY

SCENIC HOUSTON’S ROOTS ARE DEEP

Born in a local advocacy effort to battle the unregulated proliferation of billboards in our city, in 1966, concerned Houstonians led by architect Ralph Anderson and attorney Carroll Shaddock formed the non-profit group Billboards Limited to fight billboard blight. Billboards Limited would become what we know as Scenic Houston today. 

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1980 | Ban on New Billboards: City Ordinance

In 1980, Houston was home to over 10,000 billboards and was known as the "Billboard Capital of the World." Thanks to the efforts of Billboards Limited and a new generation of community leaders, Houston City Council unanimously passed an ordinance banning new billboard construction in the city.

 

Once new billboard construction was stopped, then redevelopment, attrition, and continuing anti-billboard advocacy began to gain traction. As a direct result of this ordinance, billboard inventory was reduced from 10,000+ billboards in 1980 to 1,309 in 2019.

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1980 | Scenic Right-of-Way and Districts

In 1980, the City of Houston established its first scenic district. Scenic districts and rights-of-way are travel way corridors with elevate standards for on-premises and off-premises signage.  Currently the city of Houston has established nineteen scenic districts and/or rights-of-ways that have elevated signage standards throughout these nineteen areas.

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1999 | Adoption of Texas Legislation: The Green Ribbon Program

Scenic Houston was instrumental in securing the adoption of Texas legislation that requires a portion of a highway construction project’s budget be spent on landscaping. Because this legislation only applies to new projects, Scenic Houston also successfully pushed for federal funds to landscape Houston’s already-completed highways. Combined, these plantings have produced 820 acres of “green ribbon corridors” throughout the Houston area and TxDOT has now planted more than one million trees. 

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2007 | Clear Channel Agreement reduces Houston's Billboards by 20%

Without the efforts of Scenic Houston, Houston City Council would have approved a settlement agreement in December 2007 to allow 466 billboards to be relocated twice over a 20 year period to new sites all over our City, including major thoroughfares. Scenic Houston representatives suggested the method of economic analysis that served as the basis for the negotiations and participated in the negotiating process. More than 800 billboards have been removed as a result of the settlement.

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2007 | First Capital Project: Texas Avenue 

Scenic Houston partnered with downtown leaders on a historical scenic project to enhance Texas Avenue. The project included the installation of 60 unique light streetlamp, the installation of historical markers and the planting of native trees along both sides of the Avenue, from the Hobby Center to Hamilton Street at Minute Maid Park.  Today, Texas Avenue is a pedestrian haven for enjoying the majestic oaks while walking along and reading the city's fascinating history.

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2008 | Ban on Digital Billboards 

In 2008, Houston City Council voted with no opposition to reconfirm and restate a total ban on off-premises billboards. This action reaffirmed and further strengthened the existing 1980 ban by explicitly stating that converting any existing billboard to digital would violate the city’s no-new-billboards law. Scenic Houston was responsible for encouraging the Council to reaffirm the law and our efforts and continues to create awareness about the blight caused by billboards.

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2008 | Eliminating Attention-Getting Devices

With policy analysis and research data developed by Scenic Houston, Houston City Council adopted an ordinance to prohibit the commercial use of “attention-getting devices,” or AGDs. These include the giant, cartoonish, inflatables seen atop businesses, as well as streamers, pennants, flags, and wind devices. Eliminating AGDs cleans up very real visual blight along our freeways and major thoroughfares. 

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2009 | Strong Improvements to the Houston Sign Code

Thanks to Scenic Houston’s role as a member of a 2009 Mayor’s On-Premises Sign Task Force, today’s Houston Sign Code now provides for fewer, smaller and less intrusive on-premises signage throughout the city. Houston Sign Code now provides for fewer, smaller and less intrusive on-premises signage throughout the city.

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2013 | Scenic Houston's Streetscape Resource Guide is Published 

Understanding that any stakeholder interested in Houston streetscape planning and development could benefit from a definitive resource guide — and finding none — In 2013, Scenic Houston produced the Streetscape Resource Guide. This practical tool benefits all stakeholder by equipping them with a photo guide to street-building standards to better advocate for streetscapes that are assets to their unique communities.

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2015-2017 | Saving the Texas Highway Beautification Act

An unexpected 2016 court ruling gutting the Texas Highway Beautification Act could have resulted in a loss of $350 million in federal highway funding and a loss of TxDOT’s ability to regulate billboards.  In 2016, Scenic Houston organized amicus legal briefs filed with the Austin Third Court of Appeals and in 2017 crafted legislation seeking a statutory cure to the issue. The bill was passed by the Texas Legislature in May and signed by Governor Abbott in June 2017. 

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2017 | I-69 Bridges Projects 

In 2017, Scenic Houston partnered with the Houston First Corporation to visually enhance the bridges crossing over I-69 between Tuam and Leeland. The goal of the project was to help increase awareness of Houston’s local culture and history and to foster a sense of pride and connection amongst Houstonians. The imagery placed on the bridges was selected from local artist Geoff Winningham’s book and exhibition, “In the eyes of Our Children:  Houston, an American City”.

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2017 | Second Capital Project: The Broadway/Hobby Corridor 

Scenic Houston completed streetscape enhancements along the Broadway Street airport corridor connecting William P. Hobby Airport to I-45 Gulf Freeway. Broadway Street had been rebuilt by the City of Houston, but with no budget for streetscape enhancements. Scenic Houston secured the necessary $6.2 million in funding to provide infrastructure and aesthetic improvements to the corridor.

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2018 | Scenic Houston's Streetscape Resource Guide 2.0 is published

Scenic Houston published version 2.0 of its Streetscape Resource Guide. The revised version of the Guide includes anew sections addressing transit stops/stations, bicycle facilities, trail to street connections, maintenance, and sustainability. Version 2.0 is a continues to serve as a practical tool benefits all stakeholder by equipping them with a photo guide to street-building standards.

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2020 | Airport Corridor District: New City of Houston Ordinance

Scenic Houston worked closely with Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Administration, the City of Houston Legal Department and the City of Houston Sign Administration to write and pass an Airport Corridor District Ordinance for the I-45, I-69 and Hardy Toll Road alignment connecting all three Houston airports. This Airport Corridor District designation aims to help spur removal of clutter and modernize and streamline the look of these entryway corridors. 

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