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Back to the Drawing Board for Billboard Ordinance


A packed room of angry anti-billboard and pro-billboard residents, lobbyists and business owners practically shouted down City Hall's rushed efforts to reign in outdoor advertising Thursday, with the City Planning Commission tabling the entire mess for a month. About 100 people attended the early-morning meeting in the historic

Van Nuys City Hall.

The much-anticipated Department of City Planning Recommendation Report, which was introduced by department staff, aims at stopping the proliferation of billboards and getting a handle on the estimated 4,000 illegal signs in Los Angeles.

"Too much signage can cause negative impacts," said city planning associate Daisy Mo as she presented the 36-page report under a section entitled "The Costs of Visual Clutter." 


The planners were trying to rework an existing 1986 sign ordinance after the Los Angeles City Council, in December, approved a three-month moratorium

on billboards and building-size super-graphics -- bowing to community outrage over

super-intense digital billboards now popping up from Baldwin Heights to

Venice.

Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight,

argued that the newly proposed restrictions actually "increase the

canvas for  [billboard] advertising." Business owners and developers

countered by claiming they could potentially lose business if they have

to restrict the size of outdoor advertising signs.

Edward Johnson told the L.A. Weekly

that two of three large Pacoima businesses that are part of the

Pacoima Plaza plan might pull out if they can't put up a big sign

advertising themselves -- so big it could be seen from the 118 Freeway.

Johnson claimed 750 people could lose their jobs if the businesses back

out.

"If the companies don't see economic viability there will be issues," he declared.

While

the thick report was mostly applauded by the Villaraigosa-appointed

planning commissioners, nevertheless commissioners Mike Woo and Father

Spencer Kezios wanted to know how City Hall is going to fund a

long-delayed crackdown on lawless billboard owners who erect signs

without permission. Currently, the city has just three inspectors for 10,000 billboards and has been ineffective in penalizing or even finding illegal signs, and doesn't even know if the illegal ones are safe.

 "If we don't get this together there is no point," said Kezios. "Three people? It is beyond me."


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