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Cries of "stop Manhattanization!" have been echoing through the city ever since planners approved a huge television screen that would flash advertisements down on touristy Union Square.

Businessman Louis Snyder hopes to have his 17-by-23-foot Sony Jumbotron - usually spotted in football stadiums and New York City's Times Square - up by summer.Atop a three-story building, the $2.5 million screen would look down on the park-like plaza that is surrounded by swank hotels, including the landmark St. Francis, and high-priced stores such as Brooks Brothers, Saks and Cartier.

But it isn't a done deal yet. Groups including the Sierra Club and the San Francisco Architectural Heritage are trying to unplug plans for what would be the country's second Jumbotron in a downtown area.

The screen has been approved by the Planning Commission, but the Board of Permit Appeals reversed its initial approval and scheduled a hearing for May 3. Today, opponents plan to ask the commission to reconsider its approval.

"Do we want to turn Union Square into Times Square or Piccadilly Circus, or do we want to keep it uniquely San Francisco?" asked architect Robert Meyers, a consultant for San Francisco Beautiful, another group opposing the screen.

Snyder dismisses fears that the screen would turn the staid area into a glitzy, flashy rival of Times Square. The screen would be half the size of the one in Times Square, and it would be turned off when not in use, blending into the black marble facade of the building on which it is mounted. Snyder wouldn't specify how often the screen would be turned off.




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