City Planning Commissioner Argues for Exemptions from Billboard Moratorium; Doesn’t Disclose His Connection to a Project That Could Benefit

At last Thursday’s L.A. City Planning Commission Meeting, Commissioner William Roschen argued for exemptions from a proposed moratorium on any new billboards without disclosing that one of his architectural firm’s projects could be a beneficiary of those exemptions.

Architect's Rendering of Hollywood & Vine Project

Architect's Rendering of Hollywood & Vine Project

Roschen’s firm lists in its portfolio of projects a large mixed-use development that recently began construction at Hollywood Blvd. and Vine St. in Hollywood.  That development includes a hotel, condominiums, and retail space, as well as more than 20,000 square ft. of supergraphic advertising signs and rooftop billboards.

Planning Commission chairwoman Jane Usher and a representative of the city attorney’s office both argued against exempting any signs from the moratorium that hadn’t received actual building permits from the city.   The signs in the Hollywood development haven’t been issued permits, according to records of the city’s department of building and safety, even though the overall project has been approved by the city.

Assistant City Attorney Jeri Burge argued that allowing exemptions to the moratorium for any signs that hadn’t received permits could seriously undermine the city’s ability to defend the moratorium in court.  And Usher cited recent court decisions holding that the city’s granting of numerous exceptions to sign laws had compromised its ability to enforce those laws.

Nevertheless, Roschen argued that if certain developments including billboards and supergraphic signs had been approved by the city, those signs should be exempt from the moratorium.  He was supported by Commissioners Regina Freer and Robin Hughes, and the commission eventually voted to keep the exemptions in the moratorium.

The commission also voted to reduce the term of the proposed moratorium from one year to six months, even though city planners testified that it would be extremely difficult to get meaningful public input on new sign regulations in such a short period of time.

To listen to audio of the meeting, go to the City Planning Department website, click on “meetings and hearings”, then “city planning commission”.   To read a City Ethics Commission directive on conflicts of Interest by public officials, go here.

Dennis Hathaway

One Response to “City Planning Commissioner Argues for Exemptions from Billboard Moratorium; Doesn’t Disclose His Connection to a Project That Could Benefit”

  1. Rafael O. Quezada says:

    I’m an artist who lives in Hollywood. I’m of the opinion that visual artists, long the unintended victims of this ongoing billboard debate, have stood silent and have been strangely absent from this important dialog for far too long.

    I’ve proposed an ARTWALL project to the CRA, for the façades of the Arclight Cinemas parking structure. This is a CRA-owned building. It is located in the Hollywood sign district, at 1400 N. Ivar. The building fills the block between Vine St. and N. Ivar, its east-west borders; with De Longpre on its south and its north side adjacent and attached to the old Cinerama property, now known as the Arclight Cinemas development.

    ARTWALL is proposed as an improvement for the building, whose utilitarian purpose results in a hugely oppressive presence that is essentially a flat-face block of concrete 425 ft. wide (east-west), 80 ft. high, and 250 ft. deep (south-north). Visually, it is hardly more than a slab. It’s an example of the architecture that results when automobiles are placed at the top of priority lists; as planning requires developers to include space to store cars instead of requiring developers to contribute to the improvement of public transit systems that might lessen automobile traffic and congestion.

    To soften the building, I’ve proposed a set of picture frames for display of modern art prints, digital photographs, and enlarged film-still photographs. These frames off-set the flat rectilinear shape of the structure, echoing and enhancing the parsimoniously, if not halfheartedly, designed pipe-frame device that presently supports a steel mesh screen intended to hide the ugly open slots of the seven-level auto-lot. At night, the steel mesh is ineffective. Through the darkness, the neighborhood is given the bleak view of fluorescent-tube light fixtures and flashing headlights as cars idle in procession down the parking structure’s ramps.

    The building sits on the northern edge of what will be the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science’s new “Academy Museum of Motion Pictures”. The museum coordinator, Heather Cochran, agrees it’s a problem as it stands.

    Part of the resistance I’m getting to my proposal results from CRA’s hesitancy; a direct outgrowth of the billboard debate which, if I’m not mistaken, has to do with the justified objection to the crass commercialism, built on outrageous and prurient spectacle, that has become the hallmark of advertising in the early 21st century.

    Somehow, the debate over billboard blight has to be prevented from being used by bureaucrats as a convenient way to reject genuine artistic expression. The two can’t be lumped together and it’s the responsibility of artists to make themselves heard. Until then, murals and other public art projects will continue to meet resistance from appointed officials afraid to distinguish between the two.

    I feel the solution to the problem of billboard blight is caused by artists failing to be heard on the issue. In fact, there are new digital technologies that represent a potential solution to the conflict between neighborhoods tired of being assaulted by aggressive messaging and the corporations who tie their success to the ability to most effectively assault the public’s senses. If all that makes art worthy could be applied, instead; if through an aesthetic melding of composition, form, light, and color a new way could be devised to tone down and/or re-intermediate the commercial messaging, then all of us would be the better, one day hopefully unified.

    For divided we fall and together we stand.

    I welcome any comment.

    Rafael O. Quezada

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