New digital billboards are going to start popping up along L.A.’s streets and freeways, probably sooner than later. The only questions are exactly where these brightly-lighted signs with rapidly-changing ads will appear, and how many will ultimately brighten the landscape with their shiny sales pitches to motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians on those congested thoroughfares.
Earlier this summer, the bus shelter pictured above displayed an ad for the movie, “Central Intelligence,” which depicted two men brandishing and blasting away with guns. But after complaints were raised about the bus shelter’s proximity to nearby schools, the ad was changed to a public service message featuring Smokey the Bear. (more…)
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.
Billboard companies spent $507,000 lobbying Los Angeles city officials in the first quarter of 2016, according to City Ethics Commission records. Those companies and their executives also donated a total of $9,100 to six city councilmembers running for re-election in 2017.
With the city’s legislative agenda containing such hot-button issues as allowing new digital billboards and granting amnesty to unpermitted and non-compliant signs, it’s little surprise that L.A. billboard companies spent almost $2.3 million last year lobbying council members and other city officials.
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.
With major signage issues pending before the City Council, L.A. billboard companies spent just over $1 million lobbying city officials in the first six months of 2014, according to City Ethics Commission reports. Reports are required to be filed quarterly, and the three-month period ending June 30 marked the sixth straight quarter that billboard companies paid more than half a million dollars to firms to lobby on their behalf.
As usual, the leader of the lobbying parade was Clear Channel Outdoor, the billboard division of the Texas media giant, Clear Channel Communications. The company that has mounted a highly-visible public effort to persuade the City Council to allow more digital billboards paid four different lobbying firms a total of $241,000 for the six-month period.
Others writing big checks to lobbyists were CBS Outdoor, at $195,000; JC Decaux, at $189,00; and Lamar Advertising, at $136,000. CBS Outdoor and Lamar, along with Clear Channel, are also members of the Los Angeles Outdoor Advertising Coalition, which spent $122,972 to influence city decision-makers.
Louisiana-based Lamar is suing the city to force it to issue permits for 45 new digital billboards. JC Decaux, a French company with international operations, holds the current advertising contract for LAX and other city airports.
Other lobbying expenditures by billboard companies are as follows:
Regency Outdoor $62,727
Van Wagner $60,111 (note: Van Wagner billboards were recently acquired by CBS Outdoor)
Summit Media $28,937
National Promotions & Advertising $12,075
Titan Outdoor $7,500
The Ethics Commission reports show that a total of 23 lobbying firms were registered to lobby on behalf of one or more of the nine billboard companies.
The Los Angeles city planning department is proposing that 744 billboards without permits on file be granted legal status because of the difficulty of determining when they were erected and whether or not they complied with regulations in effect at that time.
Clear Channel, CBS Outdoor, and other billboard companies spent $2.8 million lobbying Los Angeles city officials in 2013, according to City Ethics Commission reports. That’s more than double the $1.2 million spent by those companies in 2012 to influence City Council members and other officeholders.
Update: A day after the following post, the Mayor’s office announced that Ms. Lee was asking that her name be withdrawn from consideration for appointment to the commission.
A new mayor’s appointments to boards and commissions don’t usually stir up much fuss, but Eric Garcetti’s naming of a real estate company executive to the West L.A. Area Planning Commission has raised the hackles of community leaders who spent considerable energy during the past decade doing battle against the blight created by unpermitted billboards and supergraphic signs.