In June of this year, Clear Channel Outdoor donated $1,500 to L.A. City Councilman Mitchell Englander’s campaign for County Board of Supervisors in the 2016 election. That same month, a lobbying firm that represents the company donated the same amount, the maximum allowed, although such a contribution would have been illegal if Englander was running for a city rather than county office.
At a meeting of the L.A. City Council’s PLUM committee on Dec. 16, 2014, Councilman Mitchell Englander told his fellow committee members that the city should grant “amnesty” to almost 1,000 billboards that either lacked permits or had been altered in violation of their permits. Failure to do this, he claimed, would embroil the city in time-consuming, expensive litigation.
The billboard pictured above on Olympic Blvd. In L.A.’s Koreatown area is 16 feet higher than allowed by its permit, according to city inspection records. However, the sign owned by Outfront Media is nowhere to be found on a list of 391 billboards the city says have been altered in violation of their permits.
(Update: The commission on Oct. 22 unanimously approved the ordinance with no amnesty and the restriction of digital billboards to sign districts in high intensity commercial areas.. It also increased the billboard takedown ratio from one to one to 5 to 1 for new conventional signs and 10 to 1 for digitals. )
The hearts of anti-billboard folk had to be warmed by last month’s Los Angeles City Planning Commission meeting, where commissioners cast a jaundiced eye on proposals to grant amnesty to illegal billboards, allow new digital billboards outside sign districts, and exempt more than a dozen “applied-for” sign districts from the new, stricter regulations in the pending citywide sign ordinance.
People who have followed the twist and turns of the city’s long-running billboard wars may be surprised to learn that the Los Angeles City Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to discuss a new citywide sign ordinance at its meeting on Sept. 24. Why surprised? Because all the way back in 2009 the commission held three lengthy public hearings on that very same ordinance before approving it and sending it on to the City Council.
(Update: The item was pulled from the council agenda at Clear Channel’s request. A spokesperson for the company said the multi-million dollar figure was the result of a clerical error, and the actual value of the donated billboard space was about $75,000.)
The Los Angeles City Council is expected to vote this Wednesday on accepting Clear Channel’s donation of space on 12 billboards for LAPD public safety messages. That space for ads running for five weeks is worth a total of $3,978,630, says Clear Channel, which has been heavily lobbying city councilmembers to allow more digital billboards on city streets and to grant amnesty to hundreds of billboards that don’t have permits or have been altered in violation of their permits.
Billboard companies seeking new laws allowing more digital billboards and legalizing unpermitted and out-of-compliance signs spent $1.1 million lobbying city council members and other officials in the first six months of 2015, according to City Ethics Commission reports.
An L.A. City Councilman’s proposal to grant “amnesty” to nearly 1,000 unpermitted and illegally altered billboards has hit a potential speed bump in the form of a City Attorney’s opinion that enforcement action can be successfully taken against many of those signs.
Los Angeles billboard companies and employees have contributed more than $78,000 to candidates running for six City Council seats in the March 3 primary election, according to the latest City Ethics Commission reports.
Suppose, for a moment, that you own a house and decide to add on a couple of rooms. You know you’re legally required to get a permit but you figure you won’t get caught so you don’t bother with the hassle and expense of getting plans approved and the work inspected. And you’re lucky, because more than five years go by before you hear a knock on the door and it’s an inspector from the city building department wanting to see your permit.