Scores of these ads briefly graced Muni shelters this month, much to the agency's consternation.

Clear Channel claims it has removed 70 pro-Breed ads it placed in violation of Muni policy

Mayoral aspirant London Breed’s new billboards portray her as “a mayor for all San Francisco” — but that won’t include Muni shelters.

The ads, which were spotted at 18th and Guerrero and 18th and Diamond, among other spots, “clearly violate our advertising policy,” confirmed Muni spokesman Paul Rose. “We are asking the vendor to remove them immediately.”

The vendor in this case is Clear Channel. And the policy in question bans “any material that promotes or opposes a political party, promotes or opposes any state or local ballot measure or the election of any candidate or group of candidates for federal, state, judicial or local government offices … “

This is about as clear a prohibition on candidate ads as you could ask for. Muni’s policy also goes on to ban ads that are “political in nature or contain political messages,” or “expresses or advocates an opinion, position, or viewpoint on a matter of public debate about economic, political, religious or social issues.”  

When asked how this ad could possibly have slipped through the cracks, Rose directed blame upon Clear Channel, which he said made this call.

Breed’s campaign also put the onus for this situation on Clear Channel.

“Clear Channel has apologized to our campaign for mistakenly hanging London Breed for Mayor posters at bus shelters,” spokeswoman Tara Moriarty wrote us. “The obligation falls upon Clear Channel to ensure compliance and it failed to do that.”

Breed added a joke: “I guess I just can’t get comfortable anywhere without someone trying to throw me out.”

And succeeding, for good or ill.

Rose added that these ads for Supervisor Jeff Sheehy will also be removed. Calls and messages to Clear Channel have not yet been returned.

Muni’s buses, trains and shelters have, through the years, served as unlikely venues for political warfare.

Last year, at the urging of then-Mayor Ed Lee, Muni booted pot ads (if not pot) from its vehicles and shelters.

Muni has already banned cigarette and booze ads, and also “any advertisement that encourages or depicts unsafe behavior with respect to transit-related activities, such as non-use of normal safety precautions in awaiting, boarding, riding upon or disembarking from transit vehicles.”

Newer, less-inclusive ad policies have precluded ongoing competing Israeli-Palestinian ads, some of which potentially veered into the realm of hate speech. Muni will, furthermore, not accept ads depicting “lawless action” or plugging firearms, which has led action-movie purveyors to disarm their billboards.

And yet, when highly litigious gun enthusiasts submitted this ad, Muni accepted it.

Candidate ads, however, are far less ambiguous — and far less ambiguously banned by Muni. Famously, during Harry Callahan’s jaunt through the city in Dirty Harry, he hops a J-Church streetcar emblazoned with an ad for the candidate “Peter Finnegan!”

That was permitted back in 1971. Obviously, it no longer is. Years later, Finnegan lamented to me that the epochal film hit theaters only after the election concluded — and he came up short.

Sadly, Dirty Harry didn’t make his day.

Update, 3:20 p.m.: Jason D. King, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications & Marketing for Clear Channel Outdoor, e-mailed us this statement:

“We value our business relationship with the City of San Francisco and the SFMTA. We respect the established advertising standards and to honor this commitment today we removed all ads that were placed on bus shelters in error.”

He confirmed that Clear Channel removed “all 70” of these ads.

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Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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1 Comment

  1. The sympathetic looking lady in the Gun Rights Conference ad would probably be better off with a German Sheppard than a shotgun.

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