Fuel Outdoor: In With a Bang, Out With a Whimper…and a $1.8 Million Fine

Array of Fuel Outdoor signs put up without permits (Photo from January, 2009)

New York-based Fuel Outdoor was one of the first rogue companies that rode into L.A. with the following strategy: Put up billboards and supergraphic signs all over the city without regard for ordinances and requirements for permits, then sue the city when the citations start coming and get the courts to declare those ordinances–most importantly, the 2002 ban on new off-site signs–an unconstitutional infringement of free speech.

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L.A.’s “Renegade Sign Bandits” In Madrid Guerrilla Action

Left, "sign bandits" poster in Madrid bus shelter; right, masked sign bandit" with faux violation notice placed last year on dozens of illegal L.A. billboards

The Renegade Sign Bandits, the anonymous group that plastered illegal signs with official-looking violation notices more than a year ago and then wasn’t heard from again, surfaced last week as part of  a guerrilla action that replaced more than a hundred ads with text posters in Madrid bus shelters and items of street furniture.   The group, which took its name from a remark made by an official with L.A.’s building department, has a new website, but what might be next on its activity calendar is anybody’s guess.  For an LA Weekly interview last year with one of the “bandits,” click here.

Rogue Sign Company That Fled L.A. Loses Court Fight in San Francisco

Fuel Outdoor, a New York company that put up hundreds of illegal advertising signs in L.A. and then took them down last year after losing a five-year court battle to overturn the city’s ban on new off-site signs, has suffered a major loss in a similar fight against sign regulations in San Francisco. (more…)

Some Highlights (and Lowlights) of 2010 in the Local World of Outdoor Advertising

The past year proved to be an eventful one in the ongoing battle against an outdoor advertising industry that would like to turn the city’s public spaces into a brighter, denser, more inescapable gallery of sales pitches for movies, tv shows, fast food, cars, and other products and services.  Here are a few of the more notable events, presented in no particular order:

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Now You See Them, Now You Don’t: Fuel Outdoor Signs in L.A. Coming Down

Signs shown on Lincoln Blvd. were installed four years ago, taken down last week

Fuel Outdoor, the rogue sign company that failed to win a lawsuit challenging the city’s right to ban new off-site advertising signs, has begun taking down the movie-poster style signs installed without permits in a number of locations.  Whether the New York-based company intends to remove all its estimated 200-plus signs is not known.

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Sign Company Loses Legal Challenge in New York, Starts Taking Signs Down: Lost Earlier Legal Challenge in L.A. But Signs Stay Up

Truck with crew removing Fuel signs in New York. Photo by Public Ad Campaign

Fuel Outdoor, the rogue sign company known as Metro Fuel in New York, is apparently taking down its signs there as a result of a ruling yesterday by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals that the nation’s largest city has every right to regulate and limit off-site advertising.  See Appeals Court Rules NYC Can Limit Billboards

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Fuel Outdoor Continues to Challenge San Francisco Sign Ban Despite Losing in L.A.

After a federal court judge ruled two years ago that Los Angeles couldn’t ban advertising signs on private property if it allowed the same kind of signs in bus shelters and other pieces of “street furniture,”  the company that sued the city filed a nearly identical claim against the city of San Francisco, which also bans signs on private property but has a street furniture program.

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Renegade Sign Bandits Strike Again

(Update: “Sign Bandit” interviewed by L.A. Weekly)

Numerous mini-billboards belonging to Fuel Outdoor were tagged with “Illegal Sign” notices overnight on major streets in West L.A., three days after they first appeared on signs in the Venice area.   The persons responsible–called “renegade sign bandits” by a building department spokesperson–haven’t identified themselves or made any kind of public statement about their activities.   The official-looking notices are apparently intended to call attention to the fact that the Fuel Outdoor signs were all erected without required city permits, but still remain on city streets despite the fact that the company has lost its legal challenges to the city’s sign ordinance.

For more, click here.

“Renegade Sign Bandits” Call Attention to Fuel Outdoor’s Illegal Billboards

Our friends at the interesting and informative urban blogs LAist and Curbed LA have reported on the apparent posting of faux-official “illegal sign” notices on a number of illegal movie-poster-style signs owned by Fuel Outdoor.   See Activists Do Their Own Guerrilla Enforcement of Illegal Billboards and Venice Ads Hit.

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Graffiti, Billboards, and Reclaiming Public Space Appropriated by Illegal Advertising

Left, graffiti on freeway mural; right, signs erected without permits or inspections

What is the difference between those who spray paint gang slogans and other kinds of graffiti on public walls and companies that put up illegal billboards and supergraphic signs?  What is the difference, fundamentally, between graffiti and illegal outdoor advertising?   Both make a claim on public space, saying “Look at this!” without observing any laws or considering that citizens might deserve a voice in what they’re forced to see when they drive, walk, or otherwise experience their urban environment.
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