Reducing sign pollution

Port Vell, Barcelona

Ada Colau, the current mayor of Barcelona, rose to prominence as an anti-poverty and housing activist in the wake of the global financial crisis. Since winning election last June she’s declared war on Airbnb, pushed for a ban on new hotels and is now fighting for the city to purchase the popular marina Port Vell to expand public access.

Colau has now turned her attention to commercial advertisements in the streets. A new policy will cut the number of street billboard spaces from 2,194 to 1,884, along with eliminating 20 per cent of advertisements that run alongside city roads.

“Barcelona is a city that is very contaminated with advertising – double what is seen in other Spanish and European cities,” explained deputy mayor Gerardo Pisarello in an interview with Spanish newspaper Efe in February. The goal is to “be able to enjoy the public scenery in a more pleasant way, with less suffocation and without it affecting municipal earnings,” he added.

To ensure that sign revenues remain the same, the city will increase the annual billboard bid from €10.5 million to €12 million. The winning bidder will then have to spend an additional €1 million on street furniture.

One major theme emerging out of Colau’s early tenure as mayor is a determination to defend Barcelona from what she sees as the threat of over-commercialization. Over the past four years tourism has grown 18 per cent, with Barcelona becoming the fourth most popular destination in Europe.

She’s hoping that by improving public spaces like Port Vell and reducing the number of advertisements that Barcelona will continue to maintain its unique character.

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