Business Interests Fight Proposed Sign Ordinance

Lobbyists, union members and representatives of business owners in Los Angeles provided a unified front yesterday in their opposition to the city's proposed sign ordinance.

"A business without a sign is no business," said Gary Toebben, president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. Toebben argued that businesses are already struggling to keep their doors open, and the new sign regulations would "put more jobs at risk."

The hot button issue arrived at the April 21 Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) meeting after four contentious months with the city's planning commission. On March 26, the planning commission voted in favor of the planning department's proposal to prohibit brightly-lit billboards, giant vinyl supergraphics and rooftop signs citywide, but to also allow them in 21 potential "sign districts." The proposed ordinance also targets on-site advertising. In other words, every advertising sign in the city would be subject to the same rules and regulations.

Councilman Ed Reyes jokingly referred to agenda item #4 as the "main event."

It was an understatement. In addition to the business owners, union representatives claimed the ordinance would curtail jobs associated with billboard construction and erection; lobbyists complained that their clients, such as Target and the CIM Group, are being unnecessarily targeted because

of the city's own inability to control the illegal billboard industry.

In 2002, the city promised to inventory all billboards, legal and

illegal, yet still hasn't done so. Nor has the council provided the

funding for billboard inspectors to inspect the city's estimated 4,000 illegal signs. Currently, there are three billboard inspectors.

Ruben Gonzalez, the executive director of the Hotel Association of Los Angeles called the proposed plan "inappropriate" in a sagging economy.

"No one has taken the steps to see how it would affect different

industries," he said. "Why wasn't the business community engaged?"

"The issue is lack of enforcement [of illegal billboards]," said Ed Wasserman of Daktronics, a leading provider of electronic scoreboards, large screen messaging and video systems. "Don't punish on-premise signs."

Howard Sunkin of the Los Angeles Dodgers

argued that large advertisements on team property were essential "to

the fan experience" and criticized the planning department for

"exempting" businesses "out of the process."

"It is extremely troubling to us," he said. Then, referring to the Dodgers, Sunkin continued: "The best thing we can do for Los Angeles is to preserve the crown jewel."

The next meeting to talk about the issue is scheduled for PLUM in two weeks.


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