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Council Member Garcetti to Introduce Legislation Targeting Electronic Billboards

Council President Eric Garcetti plans today to introduce two resolutions that would address the rapid spread of electronic billboards in Los Angeles.

The first motion calls for City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo to revisit the terms of the settlement agreement between the City of Los Angeles and Clear Channel Outdoor, CBS Outdoor and Regency Outdoor, which resulted in the city allowing the billboard giants to convert static billboards into pulsating electronic digital displays.

On October 16, the L.A. City Planning Commission is also planning to look at the possibility of a moratorium on electronic billboards.

Back in 2002, Council Member Jack Weiss called for a yearly billboard-inspection fee on billboard owners. That same year, then-Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski called for a ban on all new billboards.

The ban was barely passed by city council members when Clear Channel Outdoor, Vista Media, CBS Outdoor and Regency Outdoor filed lawsuits claiming that the city’s actions were unconstitutional. Instead of holding the billboard companies’ feet to the fire with an effective crackdown, Delgadillo agreed to “settlement” meetings with high-powered billboard-industry attorneys. Those meetings led to mega deals in late 2006 and early 2007 that allowed CBS Outdoor, Clear Channel and Regency Outdoor to digitally modify a whopping 800 plus billboards.

Since then, the “sweetheart” deal has opened up a Pandora's box of litigation, and court rulings that have allowed sign companies to ignore the citywide ban because the city itself is putting up advertising all over town while making exceptions with Los Angeles City Council approved “Supplemental Use Districts” or specialty billboard districts and variances.

Garcetti also plans to introduce a resolution that would put the city on record “in opposition to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to allow Amber Alert message boards to be used for commercial advertising.”

Last week, the Schwarzenegger administration began considering advertisements on freeway signs used for Amber Alerts and other emergencies.

The advertisements would be posted on 674 electronic roadside message boards. The funds raised – estimated at millions - would go towards the financially strapped highway fund. The proposal would be up for bid and the winner would replace the state's old emergency message signs with new flashy video screens that would show advertisements when it wasn’t posting Amber Alerts.