Hey, there! Log in / Register

Electronic billboard rejected for Causeway Street

Proposed electronic billboard

Board says nope.

The Zoning Board of Appeal today rejected a billboard company's plan to stick a 24-hour electronic billboard on top of the Dunkin' Donuts on Causeway Street at Lancaster Street, across from the Tip O'Neill Building.

In a 5-2 vote, the board sided with City Councilors Kenzie Bok and Ed Flynn that Media Vision, Inc.'s need to make money was not enough of a hardship to overrule a zoning prohibition against billboard in a historic district, one that could distract drivers at an intersection that is already dangerous for pedestrians.

The city currently has three areas - the Seaport, Landsdowne Street and the Theater District - where such signs are allowed, with zoning-board approval. Everywhere else, the signs are forbidden, which would require the board to grant a variance, which requires proving the zoning is causing an undue hardship on the applicant.

"We really feel it's incredibly important for the board not to sort of set a precedent of granting a hardship for electronic billboards," because once one is given, it could open the rest of the city up to them, Bok said.

Bok added that while that particular section of Causeway is now limited to commercial uses, the broader area is rapidly becoming residential, and the last thing it needs is "a tax on people's attention whenever they step out into the public realm."

The West End Civic Association and the Downtown North Association, which represents area businesses, also opposed the proposal.

Jay Walsh, representing the Downtown North Association, said the burgeoning Garden/North Station project down the street might be a better place for electronic billboards.

Some area non-profit groups, however, backed the proposal, because of Media Vision's promise to give them time and space on the board for PSAs.

Jeff Hampton, a planner with the BPDA, also urged the board to reject the proposal. He said the BPDA is currently working on a zoning change to further control electronic billboards, including limiting their approvals to just eight years at a time, requiring BPDA licensing and setting limits on their hours of operation, brightness and how quickly the ads on them can change.

Free tagging: 



Will do this but when it comes to Roxbury they will approve any ridiculous pipe dream a developer wants to construct. Janey knows and doesnt care.


I do not know of Mayor Janey’s positions in her district but I do hope she has a deeper concern for her new mayoral district. If it appears that she does not have a concern of the residents who vote, then the ballot box will reveal itself.

Electronic billboards, especially, sound like they would be a hazardous distraction to pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicular traffic alike.


This is a city wide issue. Digital Billboards should not even be considered in neighborhoods. They are Forbidden by Zoning. Would literally change the face of Boston, and not in a good way!

The ZBA, under dubious circumstances, approved a digital billboard at Boston Bowl in Dorchester. This will distract drivers on Rt 93 and will be highly visible from Tenean Beach, Victory Road Park and Squantum Point Park. Within 309 ft of Neponset River Area of critical Environmental Concern. Environmental and Social Injustice. DCR Commissioner James Montgomery, Secretary of Energy and Environment Kathleen Theoharides, Senator Nick Collins and Representative Dan Hunt should oppose this billboard before it goes to the State DOT Outdoor Advertising Board for approval.
Help is needed to convince the above officials to oppose this billboard!


I do not know of Mayor Janey’s positions in her district but I do hope she has a deeper concern for her new mayoral district. If it appears that she does not have a concern of the residents who vote, then the ballot box will reveal itself.


She hasn't even been mayor for a week. Let's give her a break. Besides an e-sign across from the Garden is really not at all like condos in a neighborhood.


The West End should not be the only place that should reject the idea of an electronic billboard. They should be rejected throughout the city...period.

Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline should not have them, either.


Brookline bylaws prohibit all billboards, electronic or otherwise.

The posters up on the MBTA C Line shelters are only legal because they're on land not under the jurisdiction of the town.

I know that Brookline has no billboards. Here's hoping it stays that way.

I stand by my opinion that electronic billboards, however, are especially bad, and most definitely should not be put up anywhere, including Boston!

100% Agree. Why should we approve digital billboards anywhere in Boston? It's an eyesore to literally everyone.


does the West End still exist?

Saw it torn down.


Ban all billboards in the city.


I would like to know if there’s any evidence that any car accident anywhere has been caused by an electric billboard. I’ve certainly never heard of it. Searching the Internet reveals a lot of pearl-clutching articles claiming it must be so, but the only real stories have to do with porn on the boards. Go ahead and ban that.

Electronic billboards are eyesores. Try putting one in Wellesley, Weston, Wayland, Westwood, Winchester, Milton, Medfield, Hingham, Scituate, Cohasset, Swampscott, Marblehead, or anywhere in Barnstable County.


A Google Scholar search for "billboard driver distraction" pulls up thousands of research articles on the topic. One meta-analysis that caught my eye included this:

[A]lthough the subject is under-researched, there is evidence that in some cases overcomplex visual fields can distract drivers and that it is unlikely that existing guidelines and legislation adequately regulate this.

This study using a driving simulator finds that video billboards are linked to measurable changes in driving behavior:

When compared to behaviour when passing static adverts, participants in the study:

  • spent longer looking at video adverts;
  • glanced at video adverts more frequently;
  • tended to show greater variation in lateral lane position with video adverts;
  • braked harder on approach to video adverts;
  • and drove more slowly past video adverts.

No they don't belong everywhere and I'm happy that this one was denied. Still, I don't mind most billboards and in fact find them informative and useful. I know I'm in the minority - my wife strongly disagrees with me - but I'm generally OK with the occasional billboard.


That should be the overriding issue when deciding whether to approve one of these. (Not just current residential windows, but possible future ones allowed under zoning.)


The city should make sure that doesn't happen.

But they should also ban billboards in general. Billboards trash the place, to make money for a corporation at the rest of our expense.


Not even a corporation. Many short-sighted property owners have put billboards atop their buildings, eager to pocket the seemingly free monthly income. What they don't consider is the damage these heavy things do to the structure of the building, but that's a problem for the next owner of the building to solve.

It's nuts that the zoning board vote was 5-2 and not unanimous.

it really looked like "Welcome to The Wasteland"