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Politics

Anti-Billboard Activists Gear Up for Fight

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Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 7:02 PM

Anti-clutter, anti-billboard activists are gearing up for a fight tomorrow when a hearing will be held on a proposed, hyper-bright electronic billboard on Ventura Boulevard in Encino.

The Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight has been fighting to stop the bright billboard on Ventura Boulevard since last year. Digital billboards have been quietly approved all over the city since City Hall settled its disastrous lawsuit with Clear Channel Outdoor, CBS Outdoor and Regency Outdoor. Although the city supposedly won its legal arguments, for unknown reasons they buckled to the billboard giants.

Angelenos are still unaware of the fact that because of the widely criticized settlement by City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo, super-rich billboard corporations will be allowed to turn more than 700 billboards in Los Angeles into LED signs that burn for 24 hours a day, and are so bright they can be seen through curtains.

The settlement agreement, which was approved by the Los Angeles City Council and also agreed to by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, raised the ire of community activists who questioned whether city attorney Delgadillo was in cahoots with the powerful billboard companies.

Last year, the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight learned that the digital billboard was proposed along busy Ventura Boulevard. Others have already quietly appeared on Ventura Boulevard in Woodland Hills, on Topanga Canyon Boulevard in Canoga Park, and in the Cahuenga Pass.

But Valley activists furious about City Hall's mad rush to overdevelop and advertise in every corner of the city moved fast, filing an appeal with the South Valley Area Planning Commission alleging that the 14 foot by 48 foot Clear Channel digital billboard at 15826 W. Ventura Blvd. raised questions about driver distraction and traffic safety.

“It will use far more energy than a conventional billboard and create potential light pollution for nearby residences, as such billboards have in other areas of the city,” says Coalition President Dennis Hathaway.

According to the Coalition, the billboard was wrongly given a categorical exemption from environmental review on the grounds that the conversion from conventional to digital is a minor alteration.

The Coalition also argues that the Ventura/Cahuenga Boulevard Corridor Specific Plan explicitly prohibits new billboards on Ventura Blvd.

“An electronic billboard is not simply an alteration to a conventional billboard,” says Hathaway. “It is different in every way but overall size, and ought to be considered a "new" billboard and thus prohibited. In fact, the conversion to electronic requires everything but the supporting column to be replaced, which further supports the view that it is new.”

The billboard was conditionally approved by Gail Goldberg, the city's Director of Planning, but that approval was appealed to the South Valley Area Planning Commission. The hearing will be held tomorrow, on August 28, at 4:30 p.m. at the Marvin Braude San Fernando Valley Constituent Center at 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., 1st Floor Conference Room.

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