PLUM Committee to Sign Companies: “Romance Me & Finance Me!”

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.

Patrick Frank

L.A.’s Digital Billboard Debate: It’s the Revenue, Stupid

This Clear Channel digital billboard was shut off by court order in 2013.

This Clear Channel digital billboard was shut off by court order in 2013.

The political debate over allowing new digital billboards in L.A. has little to do with issues like traffic safety, light pollution and energy use. In fact, it’s not even a debate in the classic sense but can be characterized as an interplay of two powerful desires. Clear Channel and other big billboard companies badly want to put up the electronic signs on city streets and freeways and the City Council desperately wants to find new sources of revenue.


Three Years and Counting: Alcohol Ads Ban Reaches L.A. City Council

Bushmills 2

Beer and liquor ads on bus shelters and other items of street furniture have long been a common feature of the Los Angeles streetscape, but their demise moved closer to reality this week when the City Attorney sent an ordinance banning alcohol advertising on public property to the City Council.


More Billboards Coming To Los Angeles? Judge Rules City’s Off-Site Sign Ban Unconstitutional

Lamar Advertising has won a major court battle in its fight to put up new digital billboards like this one in Los Angeles

Lamar Advertising has won a major court battle in its fight to put up new digital billboards like this one in Los Angeles

Los Angeles has been trying to shed its label as the country’s billboard capital, but Clear Channel and other companies pushing to put up new digital billboards got a major boost this week when a Superior Court judge ruled that the city’s ban on new off-site signs violates the free speech guarantee of the California state constitution.


L.A. City Council Moves To Ban Booze Ads On Street Furniture

Malibu Black 2

Ads for beer, whiskey, vodka and other alcohol beverages commonly seen on bus shelters, kiosks, and other items of street furniture became an endangered species yesterday when the City Council directed the City Attorney to draw up an ordinance banning such advertising on city-owned property.


Jan Perry Greeted by Anti-Park Advertising Protesters in Venice

People holding signs saying “No Ads In Parks” and “Parks Are Sanctuaries” were scattered through the audience Tuesday night when L.A. City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Jan Perry spoke before the Venice Neighborhood Council.  Perry, a vocal proponent of selling advertising in parks and other city properties to raise revenue for the city, told the dozen or so protestors that local communities could “opt out” if they didn’t want advertising in their local parks and recreation facilities.


Playing With Fire? Raising Revenue By Allowing Billboards On Public Property

Simulation of L.A. Convention Center billboards

On January 6, 2009, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a nationally-watched case that the city of Los Angeles could legally allow commercial advertising signs in bus shelters and other items of “street furniture” while banning the same kind of signs on private property. But does that ruling mean that the city can raise revenue by allowing billboards and other signs anywhere it wants on public property without putting its off-site sign ban in legal jeopardy?

Public/Private Partnerships: Will Commercialization Save Our City Parks?

Playground at Holmby Park in Los Angeles (Signs digitally added)

Public/Private partnerships. At last week’s meeting of the L.A. City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, the term kept bobbing like a life preserver grasped for by city agencies at risk of drowning in a violent tide of red ink. Councilman Bill Rosendahl, speaking of the Recreation and Parks department, said that in the absence of such partnerships “we’re not going to be able to sustain our parks, it’s as simple as that.” The other committee members who spoke–Paul Koretz, Greig Smith, and Chairman Bernard Parks–all nodded assent to Rosendahl’s declaration, apparently feeling no need to examine either its truth or its implications for the city’s future. (more…)

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.

Public Service Message To Motorists? Bike Safety Awareness Posters Face Away From Traffic

Bicycle safety message, left, faces away from street; motorists see this movie ad, right.

Last August, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa stood with bicycle safety advocates outside city hall to unveil a large poster with the slogan “Give me 3” and announced that the message—that motorists should give bicyclists at least three feet of clear space when passing—would be appearing in bus shelters and public amenity kiosks (PAKs) throughout the city. (more…)

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