Los Angeles City Councilmember Jack Weiss introduced a motion yesterday that would address and fix the colossal problems that have been raised in court cases challenging the city's sign ordinance. The motion calls for the city's planning department, Department of Building and Safety and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo's office to revise and toughen the 2002 ban on billboards.
“I was very proud of the moratorium we passed a few years ago and very proud of the inspection program,” said Weiss. “I want to find a way to preserve the city's ability to protect our neighborhoods that is consistent with the court decisions that have been issued.”
The July 29 motion is the city’s latest effort to control the public’s airspace from obnoxious building-sized ads and billboards that have popped up after the city opened the door to it, setting precedent by allowing certain hand-picked companies to slather the city with advertising.
Back in 2002, 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, City Attorney Rocky 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.
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Since then, the “sweetheart” deal and billboard ban has opened up a Pandora's box of litigation, and court rulings that have allowed sign companies to ignore the citywide ban.
Even Weiss’ motion to fine billboard companies and building owners who allow “supergraphics” on buildings $2,500 a day is a bust because of a June federal court ruling.
Will this motion be the answer to the city’s billboard problem?