Recently, reporter Christine Pelisek asked the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety for a list of all legal and illegal billboards in L.A. - an embarrassing document that will show the public all 11,000 "points of blight" allowed on local streets by City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles City Council - in an era when other cities are removing and banning billboards.
Maybe we shouldn't have been so shocked, given Villaraigosa's view of what constitutes quality of life, when Building and Safety officials, instead of giving Pelisek this public information, instead alerted Clear Channel and its lawyers that the Weekly had asked City Hall for its billboards list.
That's right, Villaraigosa's bureaucrats in Building and Safety actually informed on us to a very big, very aggressive, very rich billboard company. Tattled. Squealed.
This morning, Clear Channel and another huge billboard profiteer, CBS, took the city to Superior Court to stop the cowed bureaucrats over at Building and Safety from even thinking about giving the Weekly the list of existing illegal and legal billboards in L.A.
Clear Channel lost in court today.
When our lawyer, Walt Sadler, and the city's lawyer, Steve Blau, appeared in court this morning to protest Clear Channel's effort to squelch this information, Judge James Chalfant quickly made clear that the location and ownership of billboards in L.A. - no matter the endless excuses given in the past by Delgadillo, Villaraigosa and the City Council - is public information gleaned from a public permitting process.
It is not proprietary information, as stratospherically expensive lawyers like Laura Brill from Irell & Manella, representing Clear Channel, like to claim when trying to keep this information from Los Angeles residents. Now, Building and Safety must release the list of 11,000 billboards, their owners and locations. By April 4. Including the thousands of billboards put up illegally by many billboard companies.
This is information that Los Angeles' dozens of Neighborhood Councils and anti-blight activists have long been waiting for. But Clear Channel has a history of suing to interminably delay fearful City Hall officials from doing the right thing. So stay tuned.