L.A. Planning Commission Approves New Sign Law

The Los Angeles Planning Commission voted today to adopt a new sign ordinance that would prohibit brightly-lit digital billboards and giant vinyl supergraphics citywide but allow them in 21 potential sign districts.

The commission also voted to establish a city task force to annually review the impact of the new sign ordinance.

The 6-3 vote marked an end to a sometimes hotly debated issue that pitted City Hall lobbyists and developers against anti-clutter activists and neighborhood councils since January.

However, more recently, the debate centered on sign districts,

which were introduced in 2002 when the City Council adopted a ban on

all new billboards. As a concession to advertisers, the city agreed to

allow hundreds of new signs - but only in certain highly urbanized

areas, including Hollywood.

Today's decision potentially allows sign districts in 21 "regional" and "regional commercial" centers including Koreatown, most of Chinatown, a shopping district in Boyle Heights, historic downtown Van Nuys, a big area of San Pedro and most of Wilshire Boulevard between San Vicente Boulevard and the 110 freeway.

Commissioners Michael Woo, Cindy Montanez and Father Spencer Kezios

voted against the planning department's recommendations. Last week, Woo

complained that the plan provided too many exceptions and would mean a

"massive proliferation of signs in the city."

At today's packed, early morning meeting at Van Nuys City Hall, Woo

said he still wasn't "completely comfortable" with the proposed sign

district exceptions.

"If you look at the regional centers eligible this isn't just places

like L.A. Live," he said. "It includes Van Nuys Boulevard . . . Boyle

Heights and Baldwin Hills."

Woo, who grabbed a few low cheers from the crowded room, wanted to

know what part of our culture would be better served by having a "huge

supergraphic with a giant Pepsi bottle staring down at you."

Voicing his approval for the project was commissioner Sean Burton,

who argued that the new sign law would result in a significant

reduction of signs citywide. Also in favor was commission president

Bill Roschen. "It is undoubtedly a win for our city," he said.

Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, called the new sign ordinance a compromise.

"This has the teeth to do it," he said, "assuming the City Council

doesn't throw exceptions to it, and the city is able to enforce it . .

. It is not worth the paper it is printed on if it isn't vigorously

enforced."

The commission forwarded the new sign ordinance to the City Council,

which will most likely vote on it in June, before a sign moratorium

expires.


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