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“Supergraphics” Company Continues Attack Against Los Angeles’ Billboard Ban

Last week, attorneys for World Wide Rush filed a motion in federal court asking a judge to permanently block the city from prosecuting building owners who allow “supergraphics” signs on their buildings.

The motion was filed after the city began enforcing its sign ordinance against the owners of seven of World Wide Rush’s 34 “supergraphics” sites located at 6801 W. Center Drive, 3415 Sepulveda Blvd., 10680 W. Pico Blvd., 8801 W. Pico Blvd., 1089 W. National Blvd., 6200 Wilshire Blvd., and 169 N. La Brea Ave. The city also filed charges against a building owner for the sign located at 6081 Center Drive, and threatened to issue an arrest warrant based on the building owners refusal to remove the sign.

According to the July 24 court papers, the “threat” of criminal proceedings caused one advertiser to cancel its advertising campaign. When another advertising campaign was initiated at that site, the city dispatched the police “who threatened to arrest the workmen installing the sign.”

Last month, a federal court judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking Los Angeles from prosecuting the Philadelphia-based “supergraphics” company. The court ruling essentially stopped the city from any enforcement actions at the companies 34 locations until the company has a chance to challenge the city's outdoor advertising laws.

World Wide Rush argued that the city’s 2002 billboard ban violated its free speech, and that city leaders were discriminating against them by forbidding “supergraphics” and billboards within 2,000 feet of freeways while making exceptions with Los Angeles City Council approved “Supplemental Use Districts” or specialty billboard districts, specific plans and development agreement exceptions.

On June 9, US District Judge Audrey Collins said that Worldwide Rush showed that it had a likelihood of winning the lawsuit it filed in 2007. Collins also criticized the city’s decision to allow two 76-foot-tall monster-size double-faced billboards next to the 10 Freeway then forbid other billboard companies from doing the same for traffic safety reasons.

The judge based part of her court decision on Council Member Jan Perry’s plan to create a wetland park in South Los Angeles. The plan came about after the Metropolitan Transit Authority removed 14 billboards on Santa Monica Boulevard in 2001. Clear Channel, the owner of the billboards, sued. In exchange for Clear Channel dropping the lawsuit, the MTA agreed to create a billboard district on a bus yard it owns near the 10 Freeway. In the deal, the city got a nine-acre wetland park.

The city appealed the judge’s ruling on June 26. On July 21, the city filed a motion to “stay” proceedings in the court pending the appeal. Last week, World Wide Rush filed a motion asking the judge to make the temporary injunction permanent.

The July 24 court filing is just the latest attack on the city’s sign laws.

Attorney Paul S. Fischer and the international powerhouse law firm of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP filed the motion against the city. Akin Gump also represented Fuel Outdoor Holdings (the owner of Metro Lights) against the city in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on June 4. Liberal constitutional law scholar and Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, the attorney for Fuel Outdoor Holdings, argued that the city’s 2002 ban on billboards restricted free speech and gave City Hall an unfair advantage in outdoor advertising. The decision is still pending with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.


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