Poor Les Moonves: Garcetti admits L.A.'s Clear Channel/CBS digital billboard deal was a mistake

City councilman Eric Garcetti admitted today that the City Council's disastrous 2006 billboard settlement deal, hammered out by former City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo with Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor, was a "mistake."

"I take responsibility for voting on the settlements," said Garcetti during a City Council meeting. "Mistakes have been made."

Garcetti's statement came just minutes before council members voted on his motion to instruct the city's Building and Safety Department to comply with Superior Court Judge Terry Green, who ruled on November 4 that L.A.'s bizarre settlement agreement, which gave the billboard giants permission to turn 800 billboards into flashing digital displays with no benefits to the city, was invalid.

As part of the motion, Garcetti also asked the building department to cease issuing permits for digital billboards and suspend any active sign permit applications. That nugget was a bit of a head-scratcher since the city council adopted a moratorium December 8 that prevented any new digital billboards or supergraphics.

The short, two-paragraph motion pissed off the billboard giants including CBS President Les Moonves, and here's why:

Moonves sent a letter to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on December 9 asking him to step in and somehow stop Garcetti's motion from going forward. Unlucky for Moonves, Villaraigosa is currently slumming it in Copenhagen, Denmark attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

During the council meeting, Garcetti slammed his critics for spouting that Los Angeles is "anti-business."

The real question, although it was not even brought up in city council today, remains: What will the city do about the 100 or so digital billboards already erected without a single public hearing or notice after the sweetheart settlement deal was approved by Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles City Council?

In his court ruling, Judge Green left that decision up to City Hall. So it remains to be seen if the City Council or mayor, all of whom have accepted political contributions from the billboard giants, will allow the 100 ultrabright billboards to stay up or force the companies to take them down.

Last month, Superior Court Judge Green tossed out the city's 2006 settlement deal, ruling that it violated the law by exempting the conversions from traditional to digital billboards from any zoning regulations or requirements for notice or public hearings.

Ironically, the suit that is now stopping Moonves and Co. was not filed by the hundreds of angry neighbors who live near the flashing new, energy-guzzling digital billboards, which contain some 490,000 LED light bulbs. The suit was filed by Summit Media, which claimed that the 2006 settlement violated the constitutional rights of Summit Media and other companies who did not get deals to convert their billboards to digital.


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