Draft Citywide Sign Ordinance: It’s Ridiculous

The City Council Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) has finally come up with the text of a proposed Citywide Sign Ordinance, and it realizes many of our worst fears.

The new bill (Council File 11-1705) unveiled on Dec. 12, allows new digital signs outside the high-density commercial Sign Districts. Specifically, it allows such billboards in almost any type of commercially-zoned business property. This means that if the bill passes in its present form, the sign companies could erect a new digital sign, with messages changing every 8 seconds, on nearly any commercial lot that they deem worthy.

It also allows on-site digital signs, which promote the specific company where they are sited, something never envisioned in previous drafts of this legislation.

The numerous studies that show a correlation between digital billboards and driver distraction that causes collisions are all being ignored by the PLUM committee. Likewise, the committee is ignoring aesthetic and environmental concerns.

But wait, there’s more: Tucked into the language of the bill are a few subtle gifts to sign companies.

There is no prohibition on billboards of any kind, digital or static, in city parks.

Sign companies could request an exemption to the rules and make any sign up to 20% taller or larger.

There’s also a specific exception for the continuation of the huge supergraphic signs in the Greater Downtown Housing Incentive Area, which would be otherwise prohibited elsewhere in the city. This clause of the bill (14.4.24) seems to refer to the supergraphics on the exterior of the Hotel Figueroa, which is located, guess where, in PLUM Chair José Huizar’s district.

In sum: If you care at all about urban aesthetics, traffic safety, environmental light pollution, or energy conservation, then you have literally nothing to cheer about in this legislation. It is not final yet, so in the meantime we will be doing all in our power to deflect this missile before it hits its target, which is your eyeballs. Join us by sending your views to the PLUM Committee (Zina Cheng,  clerk.plumcommittee@lacity.org). Use the Council File number in the subject line, and request that your comments be added to the record.

Patrick Frank, President

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