L.A.'s City Council put off a widely-anticipated decision on whether to support a proposed statewide moratorium on digital billboards. Instead, the council will hold public discussions next Friday on whether to back Assembly Bill 109.

If passed by the California legislature, Assemblyman Mike Feuer's (D-Los Angeles) state law will halt the dramatic digital transformation that has begun hitting unsuspecting neighborhoods in Los Angeles. This will give city leaders in such billboard battlegrounds as L.A. and San Francisco two years' breathing room, in which the feds and the state can conduct studies to determine whether the brightly-lit screens distract drivers.

Until such basic safety research is completed, said Feuer at a

January 12 City Hall press conference, “It is premature, certainly, for

these digital billboards to sprout up all over California.”

The bill was a strong rebuke of the City Council, which did not conduct a single discussion of safety issues before approving

hundreds of digital billboards that are sweeping across Los Angeles. A

city planning department report last week recommended that the city 

ban digital billboards, super-graphics and rooftop billboards,

except in special “sign districts” that would allow a major influx of

new billboards.

The city report cited more than a dozen

studies suggesting a connection between signs, driver distraction and

traffic accidents. A 2006 study by the National Highway

Traffic Safety Administration concluded that glances of two seconds or

more away from the “forward roadway” double the risk of crashes or near-crashes.

Specifically, the study found that 23 percent of crashes and

near-crashes in metropolitan environments are caused by drivers looking

away from the road for more than two seconds.

Last month, the City Council approved a three-month moratorium

after digital billboards began popping up from Baldwin Heights to

Venice and community residents became enraged. It was then that the city asked its planning department to devise a plan to strengthen weak billboard


LA Weekly