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US Supreme Court rules Austin can keep billboard restrictions

(Shutterstock)

Digital billboards are staying out of Austin after a vote by the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday.


The Supreme Court voted 6-3 to uphold the city of Austin's restrictions on "off-premises" billboards after two advertising companies sued over infringement of free speech. Off-premises billboards are signs advertising businesses that are not at the property where the sign is located.

The high court ultimately ruled that the city can restrict new billboards that are deemed off-premises from going up, including digitized ones—flashy signs that switch images digitally up to every eight seconds—and that it does not impermissibly restrict speech.

The city stopped any new off-premises billboards from going up years ago in a move to preserve nature and prevent distracted driving. The ordinance did not affect existing billboards, but the past few years have been riddled with court battles around what billboards are allowed.

A years-long court battle started in 2017, when Lamar Advertising Company and Reagan Outdoor Advertising, asked the city of Austin to allow them to digitize up to 85 of their billboards. When they were denied, the pair sued arguing the regulations were discriminatory since on-premise signs were allowed to be digital, making this a content-based issue where they said their first amendment rights were violated. The Fifth Circuit agreed in its Aug. 25, 2020 opinion.

Writing for the majority Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote "this rule, which holds that a regulation cannot be content neutral if it requires reading the sign at issue, is too extreme an interpretation of this Court’s precedent."

Though Austin has taken on a tech hub identity, groups like nonprofit Scenic Texas have been supportive of the city fighting against more billboards and digitized ones. Margaret Lloyd, a Scenic Texas board member, told Austonia high tech doesn't have to mean ugly for Austin's landscape.

"Congratulations to the city of Austin for winning this case...This isn't just isolated to Austin—it's a win for cities everywhere," Lloyd said.

Popular

With deposition and trial looming, Elon Musk has offered $44B for Twitter, again
Shutterstock

Elon Musk has proposed once again to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share.

The news that Musk is offering to carry on with the $44 billion buyout was first reported by Bloomberg. Now, a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows Musk made the proposal in a letter to the tech giant on Monday.

The New York Stock Exchange temporarily halted trading in Twitter stock twice Tuesday, first because of a big price move and the second time for a news event, presumably the announcement of Musk's renewed offer.

While the per share offer price on this latest proposal remains the same as the original offer, it’s unclear if Musk has made other term changes or if Twitter would reject it. According to other reports, a deal could be reached this week.

The stock closed at $52.00/share Tuesday, indicating market uncertainty around the $54.20 offer.

After Musk informed Twitter of plans to terminate the original agreement in July, Twitter sued. A trial has been expected in Delaware Chancery Court on Oct. 17.

With the proposition of a buyout on the table again, it revives the question of whether Musk might move Twitter from San Francisco to Central Texas.

He’s done so with some of his other companies. Tesla’s headquarters in southeast Travis County had its grand opening earlier this year and tunneling business The Boring Company moved to Pflugerville. At least two other Musk companies, SpaceX and Neuralink, have a Central Texas presence without being headquartered here.

Technology journalist Nilay Patel this afternoon voiced concerns that owning Twitter and Tesla together could be problematic for Musk, as his Tesla manufacturing facilities in Germany and China are both in countries that have disputes with Twitter over content moderation and censorship.

Telsa shares fell after the Twitter news became public, before rallying to close up, at $249.44.

Austin rents nearly double in a year and are now in the top 5 nationwide
Dwellsy

While searching for a place to live, Austin renters will face monthly rates of nearly $3,000, a recent guide from rental marketplace Dwellsy shows.

The median rent in August this year was $2,930, a more than 86% increase since August 2021. That’s $820 more than the nationwide median asking rent in August and puts Austin just below the Bay Area, Boston and New York for large cities with the most expensive asking rent.

“Within this group, Austin, TX stands out for the highest increases in asking rent, which has nearly doubled since this time last year,” the study notes.

Outside of those large cities, however, others are seeing even higher rent spikes. Metro areas that ranked above Austin in one-year increases include those like Kansas City, MO with a 112% change in rent since last August and Tucson, AZ with a 124% change.

The data reflects large apartment communities, single-family homes and 2-6 unit buildings.