Slamming the Los Angeles City Council's bizarre 2006 "settlement" with billboard giants Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor as "poison," Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Green tossed out the backroom deal that handed huge outdoor advertisers a multi-billion-dollar gift to erect more than 800 glaring, digital billboards in Los Angeles neighborhoods without public hearing or public notice.
Sources tell L.A. Weekly that Green, ruling on a suit brought by Summit Media, found the deal invalid and has yet to rule on whether 101 existing permits are also invalid.
The 2006 "settlement" under scrutiny, written up by City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo and approved by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles City Counci--all of whom have taken campaign contributions from big outdoor billboard firms--mystified and infuriated many residents of Los Angeles, and here's why:
Los Angeles had already beaten the billboard giants in court over a long struggle to end L.A.'s embarrassing reputation as the center of the illegal billboard industry in the United States. The city has an estimated 4,000 illegal billboards that were slapped up without inspection, and whose safety in an earthquake is unknown.
Yet after winning in court, City Hall buckled to the billboard firms. Delgadillo cooked up a backroom "settlement" that handed the billboard firms vast new concessions including citywide digital billboards--a counterintutive reaction that nobody in Los Angeles City Hall, from Villaraigosa to City Council President Eric Garcetti, has ever been able to explain or justify.
For critics of the billboard blight that has turned L.A. into one of the nation's ugliest and most cluttered urban areas, the deal smelled of corruption and payoffs. But the current lawsuit by Summit Media is not expected to delve into those unanswered issues.
The Weekly's Christine Pelisek was the first journalist to seriously dig into the Los Angeles billboard settlement debacle, for which she won numerous accolades.