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In Backward Attempt to Remedy 'Billboards Gone Wild,' L.A. Considers Opening 9 More Sign Districts

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Thu, Aug 11, 2011 at 5:10 PM

click to enlarge City of Billboards
  • City of Billboards
NYC isn't the only one who thinks L.A. wants to be Manhattanized -- our own city leaders seem to be under the same supergraphic spell.

But don't get too excited, NYU film-school rejects who settled for USC: We're not talking Manhattanized in a cute, compact "these lights will inspire you" kind of way. We're talking a wasteland of giant ugly rectangles on sticks, slathered in adverts and jutting from the relatively flat landscape into the smog. Real cruddy stuff. Either that, or...

... wannabe-futuristic monstrosities like the Sunset Strip's up-and-coming MegaGym Videotron project. Shudder.

L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich saw through the giant stacks of billboard-company cash money in 2008, and pressured the city to strengthen its sign regulations so that rampant new signage might somehow be curbed.

(The good news, and bad: The 4,000 rogue 'boards still teetering over L.A. probably won't survive an earthquake.)

In response, since then, a mess of an ordinance has been bumbling through various City Council committees. And somehow -- in a bizarre stretch of science -- the more it's revised, the worse it becomes.

We're not 100 percent anti-Vegas. In fact, we love Vegas. But what happens in Vegas should surely stay in Vegas, or at least out of the precious few parks and non-blighted stretches of lower and middle-class Los Angeles, which, though councilmembers may forget, we actually have to live in, not just breeze through in our taxpayer-funded vehicles with a warm fuzzy feeling of removed ownership.

Speaking of anti-Vegas: Dennis Hathaway over at the Ban Billboard Blight blog, dedicated to L.A.'s unsightly sign problem, is fuming over the ordinance in its current form. On August 1, he wrote:

Applications for nine sign districts that never got as far as a public hearing before the City Planning Commission would be grandfathered by the new ordinance. Actual signage details are publicly available for only five, but those, from downtown to mid-city to the San Fernando Valley, could mean more than 150,000 sq. ft. of new off-site signage, or the equivalent of 233 full-sized billboards.

On August 9, the Planning and Land Use Management Committee forwarded the draft onto the Planning Department. Here it is in its entirety, still very tentative but with some horrifying updates.

Hathaway calculates that nine proposed sign districts (below) would be allowed to continue on the path to become sign districts. Hold your breath and pray they don't face your bedroom window:

Midtown Crossing: Same area that was just graced a view-blocking concrete wall by the 16th Street Lowe's development, courtesy of the L.A. Redevelopment Agency. (Now come the party favors: Big shiny supergraphics to shine through your curtains and brainwash your children!)

Koreatown: 17 blocks, including Wilshire and Olympic Boulevards.

Convention Center: 50,000 square feet of signage, much of it facing the 10 and 110 freeways.

Universal City: 20,000 square feet of bright digital signage.

Metro Studio at Lankershim: 52,000 more square feet of animations, just north of Universal City.

Warner Center: Unspecified project between Topanga Canyon Boulevard and DeSoto Avenue.

Boyle Heights Wyvernwood: 70-acre housing and retail development.

Panorama Place: 18.000 square feet of signage, facing Panorama City homes.

City West: Bounded by Bounded by 1st Street, Boylston, 3rd Street and Beaudry.

We'll keep you posted on which sign districts are approved, under the warm nurturing "grandfatherly" wing of L.A. politicians. Blech. Where's Trutanich when you need him?

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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