Is L.A. Planning Commissioner Bill Roschen in love with billboards?

The Los Angeles Planning Department will most likely vote Thursday on whether to back a sign ordinance that will prohibit giant-sized supergraphics and brightly-lit digital billboards from the city's sweeping landscape but allow them in 21 potential sign districts around the city.

Fighting the charge to adopt the new billboard ordinance is Planning Commission President Bill Roschen. At last week's crowded Los Angeles City Planning Commission meeting, Roschen, who is the founding principle of Roschen Van Cleve Architects, seemed frustrated at times when some of his fellow commissioners weren't sold on the idea of "sign districts."

Roschen told the crowd of 150 anti-clutter activists, developers, lobbyists and former planning commission president Jane Usher (who has been extremely vocal against the plan) at City Hall Council Chambers that he wasn't ready to give up on "those urban tools."

"Sign districts are being more intensely regulated," he had argued at

the packed meeting on March 18. "The biggest misconception is that [they are] a development tool."

Really? In a 2000 New York Times article,

Roschen praised the idea of embedding digital signs and outdoor ads

into the very walls of new housing in Hollywood, saying, "We think that

kind of urbanity is something that is appropriate.''

Roschen was interviewed about the so-called Hollywood Marketplace --

a commercial and residential development then on the verge of being

built on the corner of Vine Street and Sunset Boulevard -- and its

"unusual design features: the integration of advertising billboards

into the design of the facade."

Roschen's firm designed the advertising-packed project. Wrote the New York

Times reporter: "Not only does Mr. Roschen embrace the

concept of signs, but he also thinks a building that incorporates signs

into its facade is better off than being 'colonized' by an

insensitively sited billboard built nearby by somebody else . . . While

the combination of architecture and advertising might offend some

purists, 'signage was one of the things that we're excited about,'

[Roschen] said."

Now president of the powerful commission that is being asked to cut back on billboard blight, Roschen, appointed by the mayor,

added at the time: "The signs are part of the complexity that a project

in present-day Hollywood needs. If housing is going to happen on Vine

Street, it should have that kind of urban energy.''

So, is Roschen a billboard enabler? You decide.


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