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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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…)
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:
Bus shelters and other items of street furniture have displayed ads for such alcoholic beverages as whiskey and tequila even though city policy prohibits ads on public property for tobacco products or hard liquor.
A new bus shelter with lighted advertisements recently went up at Laurel Canyon Blvd. and Mulholland Drive, apparently without any public notice, even though the area’s specific plan requires review by a Design Review Board and approval by the director of city planning for virtually all projects, including “public utility facilities.”