ON APRIL 2, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied a motion filed by Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor that would have prevented L.A. Weekly from obtaining a list the L.A. City Council ordered to be compiled six years ago of thousands of illegal and legal billboards. Judge James Chalfant ordered that the lists be made public, disagreeing with the advertising giants’ claims that the locations and ownership of billboards are a trade secret. On April 4, the Weekly was notified by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety that it could pick up the long-repressed billboard lists.What the Weekly got instead was a heavily censored “redacted spreadsheet” from a detailed file given to the city about a year ago. In the redacted list, CBS Outdoor gives street addresses of more than 1,500 billboards — but omits information about which ones are illegal. Clear Channel’s “list” of fewer than 300 billboards, lacking all street addresses, fails to identify the nonpermitted ones — and does not begin to cover the 1,600 billboards Clear Channel admits to owning here. Moreover, the Clear Channel list offers tortured location descriptions, not usable by the public, giving unfathomable “addresses” such as “Lincoln ES 0.6mi S/O Washington F/N-1.” Los Angeles officials suspect that 40 percent of the estimated 11,000 billboards in L.A. are illegal. Activists and city leaders have long demanded that a detailed list be made public so that residents and officials can fight the problem of visual blight.
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