Supreme Court Case Could Transform Sign Regulations

If the Supreme Court upholds a lower court decision, cities could lose a long-standing right to regulate 'off-premises' billboards.

1 minute read

November 9, 2021, 11:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Billboard Flag

Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr

A blog post from the American Planning Association (APA) details a U.S. Supreme Court case that could "upend much of modern sign regulation, and will force governments to reconsider their approaches to billboard controls."

The case, City of Austin v. Reagan National Advertising, Inc., concerns the distinction between on-and off-premises signs. In a lower court decision, the Fifth Circuit court ruled that the city's off-premises restriction—the advertisement of goods or services not provided at the same location as the billboard—was impermissible as it pertains to the content of the sign.

Now, the Supreme Court will decide whether to uphold the lower court's decision. If it does, cities will lose a decades-old regulatory technique that allowed them to regulate billboards and other advertisements. 

Although it did not take a position on the case, the APA filed an amicus curae brief, stating, "we support ensuring that the rationales for sign regulation — community functionality, economic development, traffic safety, and aesthetic beautification — remain available to local governments, and we encourage the Court to adopt clear rules for the regulation of billboards."

Monday, November 8, 2021 in American Planning Association

Aerial view of snowy single-family homes in suburban Long Island, New York

New York Governor Advances Housing Plan Amid Stiff Suburban Opposition

Governor Kathy Hochul’s ambitious proposal to create more housing has once again run into a brick wall of opposition in New York’s enormous suburbs, especially on Long Island. This year, however, the wall may have some cracks.

March 20, 2023 - Mark H. McNulty

Empty parking garage at night with yellow lines marking spots and fluorescent lighting

Rethinking the Role of Parking in the American City

In cities big and small, the tide is turning against sprawling parking lots, car-centric development, and minimum parking mandates.

March 16, 2023 - The New York Times

A futuristic version of New York City, with plants growing neatly on top of modern skycrapers.

Friday Eye Candy: 20 AI-Generated Cityscapes

AI-generated images are creating new landscapes and cityscapes, capable of inspiring awe or fear.

March 17, 2023 - Chris Steins via Medium

Aerial view of farmers' market with white booths in downtown Boise, Idaho

Planners Look to ‘Activity Centers’ for Sustainable Development

Existing hubs of ‘hyperlocal’ economic activity provide a model for urban density.

March 23 - Smart Cities Dive

Close-up of person sitting on electric bike

Federal E-Bike Rebate Bill Reintroduced

The bill, part of an effort to encourage active transportation for short trips and take cars off U.S. roads, would cover 30 percent of the cost of an electric bike.

March 23 - Congressman Jimmy Panetta

High Point, Seattle

Green Infrastructure Toolkit Launches on World Water Day

The Green Infrastructure Toolkit lists 25 actions local governments can take to transform crusty, impermeable urban landscapes into vibrant, spongy ecosystems that preserve water as a resource and protect against its potential destruction in floods.

March 23 - PlaceShakers and NewsMakers

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

HUD’s 2023 Innovative Housing Showcase

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.