Candidates for L.A. City Attorney: How Will They Defend the City’s Visual Environment Against an Onslaught of Commercial Advertising?

city-attorneys

L to R: Michael Amerian, David Berger, Carmen Trutanich, Noel Weiss

The City Attorney’s office is unquestionably the single most important arm of city government for those who want to defend the city’s visual environment against sign companies and advertisers who openly describe their goal as filling every available space with commercial messages.  On July 1 of this year, one of five candidates running for that office will be sworn in, and he will likely be faced with at least 20 pending lawsuits by sign companies.  He will also have the job of enforcing a completely new sign ordinance that is likely to have been adopted by the City Council.  So it is critically important that voters next Tuesday have a sense of where these candidates stand on this issue.

Fortunately, four of the five candidates responded in detail to a questionnaire by the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight seeking their positions on all aspects of the issue.  Unfortunately, Jack Weiss, the candidate considered the frontrunner, did not respond.  Weiss, however, is an incumbent City Councilman, so we can look at his record and try to make some educated guesses about how he might act as City Attorney.

Where do the four candidates stand on these  major issues?

The 2002 ban on new off-site signs (signs advertising goods or services not available on that premises) which a federal court judge has ruled unconstitutional because the city has granted too many exceptions to it.

  • Michael Amerian supports elimination of the distinction between on-site and off-site signs, which some believe would render the above issues moot.
  • Carmen Trutanich supports an outright ban on new off-site signs without exceptions until a ruling on the major court case challenging the current ban is resolved by the appeals court.
  • Noel Weiss and David Berger support an outright ban on new off-site signs without exceptions.

It is unknown how Jack Weiss stands on this issue.  He voted last year against allowing four new billboards on the 10 freeway, but later voted in favor of an agreement that would allow thousands of square feet of new commercial advertising on the façade of the L.A. Convention center.

Digital Signs:  All four candidates favor an across-the-board ban on digital signs.

Jack Weiss’s view on this issue is unknown.

The 2006 lawsuit settlement that allows, among other things, the conversion of 877 conventional billboards to electronic.

  • All four candidates favor legal action to overturn that lawsuit settlement, as well as actions to mitigate the effects of the approximately 100 billboards already converted.

Jack Weiss voted in favor of the lawsuit settlement.  Whether he favors legal action to overturn it is unknown.

Increase in penalties to deter companies from putting up illegal signs:  All four candidates favor stiffer penalties.  In addition:

  • Michael Amerian favors penalties against both sign companies and advertisers.
  • David Berger favors the pursuit of criminal conspiracy charges, where appropriate, against sign companies.
  • Carmen Trutanich favors giving sign companies 90 days to comply with the law, after which they will be faced with jail.
  • Noel Weiss favors a citizen’s right of action against sign companies putting up illegal signs, as well as a provision requiring disgorgement of illegally gained revenue.

Jack Weiss has been a vocal proponent of increased penalties against companies putting up illegal supergraphic signs.

Read full questionnaire and answers here.

Dennis Hathaway

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