To fight what he sees as an out-of-control problem in Sarasota County, a critic of sign pollution could have gone the traditional route and called his government representatives.
But Jonathan Katz believed that turning to new media would add emphasis to his argument.
“There has been an astronomical increase in the number of signs,” he said.
From 2005 to 2010, the city and county have erected 3,878 new signs, most of them for traffic control (see box).
Katz has been taking photos of signs for the past two years, and he felt the best way to make his argument that there were too many of them was to make a YouTube video.
He enlisted the help of his daughter’s babysitter to create the video using the dozens of photographs he has taken.
The video got city leaders’ attention.
“From time to time I had noticed it (the signs),” said Commissioner Terry Turner. “I had been sensitive to sign pollution, but that video caused me to say, ‘This is a bigger problem than I thought.’”
The almost eight-minute video shows examples of roadside signs that are clumped together, damaged or faded.
One of the most egregious examples, according to Katz, is the right-turn lane on Fruitville Road at Arthur Andersen Parkway, which has more than one-dozen different signs that run the length of that turn lane.
Turner believes signs that numerous defeat their purpose.
“When you have one sign, it catches attention,” he said. “But with so many signs, they don’t inform. They confuse.”
Katz is rabbi of Temple Beth Israel on Longboat Key, and he began his quest to rid the area of some of its signs on the Key.
He began asking the Longboat Key town commissioners two years ago to ask the Florida Department of Transportation to remove signs on Gulf of Mexico Drive.
FDOT controls many area roads, such as Longboat’s main artery — Gulf of Mexico Drive — U.S. 41, U.S. 301 and Fruitville Road, and it has to approve every sign that is placed, or removed, from those roads.
Earlier this month, the state agency announced that it would be reducing the number of signs on Longboat Key by 27%.
Katz hopes prodding by City Hall will get FDOT to do the same within the city limits.
City staff members are already in contact with FDOT officials to see if something can be done.
“I think it’s a great effort,” said City Manager Bob Bartolotta. “The fewer signs, the better.”
Photographing signs has almost become a part-time job for Katz.
“My daughter asks, ‘Mommy, why is Daddy always taking pictures of signs?’” he laughs.
But it’s not just the quantity of signs that irks him — he’s also concerned about the quality.
“FDOT doesn’t make any distinction between interstates and small roads, and it puts up the same signs for both,” said Katz. “There’s no regard for local streetscapes.”
The city’s interest in reducing the number of signs has encouraged Katz.
“I don’t think people realize how much impact signs have,” he said.
New sign placements
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
City of Sarasota 43 69 78 38 28 26
Sarasota County 813 750 649 657 439 288
Contact Robin Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org.