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Mega-Billboards Get Slapped by the City of L.A. in Legal Action That Could be Worth Millions

This billboard is legal. We just like it.
This billboard is legal. We just like it.

Updated after the jump with the billboard company saying it has cooperated with the city and is "outraged" by this suit.

City prosecutors slapped a advertising company and 19 landlords with a lawsuit today for allegedly putting up illegal supergraphic billboards, including ones advertising Pepsi, Gatorade and Chase.

The action could include fines and penalties reaching into the millions of dollars, according to a statement from the City Attorney's office.

The office claims that the company, Van Wagner Communications, put the signs up without proper city permits. We kind of like how the C.A. describes supergraphics, too:

A supergraphic sign is an enormous advertising sign, usually made of vinyl, which is stretched across the side of a building, often covering windows.

The signs were put up at 17 locations, including a parking structure 240 West Venice Boulevard downtown, where the 25-feet-high Pepsi, Gatorade and Chase ads were displayed, according to the C.A.

According to the statement:

The civil enforcement action alleges that since at least 2002, the signs were erected and maintained without required permits, approvals and inspections, and constituted a public nuisance in violation of the California Outdoor Advertising Act and the City's Zoning and Building Codes.

The ads, the City Attorney's office says, are history. Now comes the fun part: Court.

Van Wagner and the property owners could face penalties of $5,000 per location per day the ad was up, $10,000 per sign, and what we like to call "revenue sharing" that could add up to millions, according to the C.A.

Update: Van Wagner Outdoor sent us this response, which reads, in part;

We are outraged by the City Attorney's action today. Van Wagner has made repeated efforts to work with the City Attorney to be a partner in his efforts to regulate outdoor advertising, including voluntarily removing inventory in locations where we were legally permitted to be by agreement with the City approved by the court. We did this voluntarily in 2010 because the City Attorney asked us to do so and because we felt that we could set a good example for others in our industry. By this action the City sends a clear message that Los Angeles is hostile to business and that businesses should be warned that their efforts to be good corporate citizens will not be honored but met with a lawsuit. Van Wagner stands by its long history of responsible business operations and will not allow the City of Los Angeles to impugn its reputation. We will vigorously defend ourselves in court against these meritless attacks.

First posted at 12:42 p.m. on Thursday, April 14.


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