Editor's note: Our colleague at laist.com, Zach Behrens, published a post on January 29 about “renegade sign bandits” — so dubbed by a city official after a mystery activist slapped real-looking “illegal sign” warnings adorned with the City of Los Angeles seal onto tacky mini-billboards placed all over L.A. by Fuel Outdoor advertising. Los Angeles City Hall hasn't lifted a finger to tear down the illegal Fuel signs. So a citizen stepped in. It's the latest twist in a saga that has turned L.A. into the capital of the illegal billboard industry in the U.S., with an estimated 4,000 illegal billboards erected while city officials looked the other way.
By Tibby Rothman
The Weekly tracked down one of the culprits who took action after the city failed to remove poster-sized billboards
illegally installed on sidewalks. He refused to
let his name be used, but agreed to an interview.
L.A. Weekly: How does your spouse feel about being married to a
renegade sign bandit?
Bandit: She doesn't like me out late at night.
LAW: Do you feel that label is unjustified?
Bandit: “The bandit” label? I find it highly flattering.
Bandit: There's a certain romanticism to the word bandit, it
puts me–who was the famous Angeleno Mexican bandit…? [He then asks
the Weekly to help him spell Joachim Murietta.]
Bandit: He was a notorious bandito–he's called the Robin
Hood of El Dorado or the Mexican Robin Hood.
LAW: Are you reading that?
Bandit: [sheepishly] It's on Wikipedia.
LAW: You stole the city's seal for this monkey-wrenching
Bandit: No, nobody stole the seal. If anybody had actually
looked at it they would see it was not the city seal.
LAW: So, what was it?
Bandit: It was a modified… it was different city seal. It's
a seal with a general resemblance to the city seal. But there's nothing on it
that says “The City of Los Angeles.”
LAW: What's a better description of what you do if not
“renegade sign bandit”?
Bandit: It's kind of like a prankster thing, but it's more
about lighting a fire under the city's butt.
LAW: Who do you
hold responsible for the proliferation of signs?
Bandit: Well, of course, the Mayor has ultimate
responsibility. And the City Attorney should be, at least, threatening to sue
this company for having these signs out illegally. Building & Safety is the
department that is directly in charge, I believe. None of the City Councilmen have made any noise out of
it–they're the ones with the bully pulpit. That ought to cover it, I think.
LAW: For a
bandito, you seem to have a strong understanding of how the city government
Bandit: Well, you know, a bank robber has to know how a bank
operates. No, I shouldn't say that–that's not a good analogy. I'd say, I have a
better idea of how the city fails to
The city claims it doesn't have the money to enforce [against illegal billboards]. Why
don't they simply collect all the signs and make Fuel buy them back? That could
help solve the budget problem and provide city jobs that are now under the axe.
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