Anti-clutter activists are fuming over City Councilman Ed Reyes' potential plan to “grandfather” eight additional sign districts into the city's proposed sign ordinance. The move could potentially allow massive supergraphic signs and digital billboards in North Hollywood, Koreatown, City West and Panorama City.

In March, the planning commission voted to allow 21 potential sign districts citywide in special “regional centers” as long as they fit special city size requirements. The commissioners also voted against “grandfathering” in eight pending sign districts because they hadn't received planning commission approval before March 2008.

However, on May 6, the planning department published its latest amendments — ones recommended by Reyes — to the sign ordinance that includes a special pass for sign districts that have already applied for city permits.

Reyes' recommendations come one week after Councilman Tom LaBonge wrote a letter to the city's Planning and Land Use Management Committee asking that the new sign ordinance be amended to allow sign districts only in downtown Los Angeles.

“There is no legitimate reason to grandfather these sign districts,” says Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight president Dennis Hathaway. “They should be subject to the provisions of the new ordinance as adopted by the City Planning Commission, which provides a real community benefit in the form of [the] mandatory takedown of billboards in exchange for allowing off-site and digital signs, and protects neighborhoods from such adverse effects as lighting from the signage. If these grandfathered districts are allowed to proceed under the old ordinance, thousands upon thousands of square feet of new digital and supergraphic signage could result without any of those critical benefits and protections.”

The amendments to the sign ordinance will be discussed at the next PLUM meeting on May 12.

The projects that could potentially be grandfathered in, if approved by the City Council, include:

  • A

    new shopping center between Pico, San Vicente and Venice boulevards

    called Midtown Crossing. This retail center is partially completed and

    has a number of stores and a supermarket operating within its

    boundaries. Without a grandfathered permit, however, Midtown Crossing

    wouldn't be able to slather the complex with signs. The developer has

    plans to incorporate eight to 10 vinyl signs into structures still

    planned for the outdoor mall. 

  • A 17-block area in Koreatown that would take in major corridors such as Wilshire and Olympic boulevards

  • A

    Reyes-backed sign-district project on the west side of the 110 Freeway

    in downtown Los Angeles, on such streets as Beaudry, Boylston, First,

    Second and Third

  • The Valley's first sign district

    in Panorama City, called Panorama Place, that would include plans to

    erect five giant billboards (the largest of which would tower 75 ft.

    high and 40 ft. wide) that add up to a total of nearly 18,000 square


The city has had a love-hate relationship

with sign districts ever since they were first introduced in 2002 as an

exception to the city's sign ban. It's an  on-again/off-again affair

that seems likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

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