Papers OK San Francisco’s News Rack Plan

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

After years of resistance and litigation, a wide variety of San Francisco newspapers have agreed to a tentative settlement with the city that will put them side-by-side in uniform news racks and eliminate free-standing boxes from entire neighborhoods. The settlement gives newspapers much of what they demanded back in 1998 when Mayor Willie L. Brown Jr. first proposed replacing all 12,000 individual news racks throughout the city with 1,000 pedestal-mounted racks holding six or eight different papers.

Wayne Snodgrass, the deputy city attorney who headed San Francisco’s negotiating team, said the settlement provides for the new “ped-mounts” to be located as close as possible to the free-standing racks they replace. Publications with a “historical presence” in an area will get the first shot at a space in the ped-mount. The ped-mounts will be installed and maintained by Clear Channel Adshel, the international “street furniture” firm, in exchange for the right to sell advertising on the units.

“Ironically, it’s pretty much what we proposed at the beginning,” said Steve Falk, president and associate publisher of the San Francisco Chronicle, which largely bankrolled the 1999 lawsuit brought by local and national dailies, major alternative papers, and other weeklies.

Newspapers aren’t happy about everything in the settlement, though. Right now, they do not pay the city a fee for their free-standing racks. Under the settlement, they would pay an annual fee for every slot they have in the ped-mounts — set initially at $30. The settlement now must pass the city board of supervisors.

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