The slow collapse of the City Council Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee into the arms of the sign companies continues. If you are ready to be shocked at what LA might look like in the near future, read the latest Planning Department report to the committee, which was just posted this week.
The PLUM committee asked the Planning Dept. to report on how the city might permit the installation of digital billboards outside of sign districts. The planners seem to have written this report reluctantly, because they referred in the text to their previous opposition to digital signs outside sign districts. But still, they followed orders and drew up various plans to allow both off-site and on-site digital signs in ways that should arouse the opposition of anyone who cares about our visual environment.
Instead of installing off-site digital signs only in areas zoned Regional Commercial, the proposal calls for allowing them in areas zoned “Regional Center Commercial, Regional Commercial, General, or Highway Oriented Commercial and Zoned Commercial.” Which means, in practical terms, any zoning with the word “commercial” in it.
As for allowing on-site digital signs, the least permissive option suggests creation of a new tier of sign districts: “A Tier 3 type Sign District would allow a wider variety of businesses to establish on-site digital signs while retaining a Citywide prohibition on digital signs.” So we might have both a citywide prohibition of digital signs and a wide variety of on-site digital signs, which sounds Orwellian on its face. And Tier 3 is the most restrictive option; neither of the other two options proposed provides for any kind of public hearing.
Throughout, there are exceptions allowed for digital signs at gas stations and theaters, almost no matter where they are located.
When we add this memo to PLUM’s previous consideration of allowing digital billboards on city property, we see that the committee is taking the sign ordinance in another irresponsible direction. We are headed for digital signs on nearly any busy street in Los Angeles. We don’t yet know what will be the terms of the ordinance that PLUM will send to the full council. But in its lust for more campaign contributions from sign companies, the committee seems to be renouncing any meaningful consideration of traffic safety or aesthetics.