Film Industry Advocates Join Latest Legal Assault On L.A.’s Supergraphic Sign Ban

Vanguard Outdoor faces criminal charges for this illegal supergraphic sign advertising the Warner Bros. movie, "Watchmen" (Photo from 2009)

The Bring Hollywood Home Foundation, a non-profit group advocating for incentives to keep film production in L.A.., has filed a motion in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals supporting a lawsuit seeking to overturn L.A.’s ban on off-site and supergraphic signs.  According to news articles about the foundation’s establishment, members of its advisory board include several city officials, among them City Council president Eric Garcetti, who last year successfully pushed for a ban on new supergraphic signs in Hollywood’s major commercial areas.  Update:  A spokesperson for Garcetti said he is not a member of the advisory board, and does not support the group’s legal action.

The motion seeking the court’s permission to file a friend of the court brief in the case of Vanguard Outdoor vs. City of Los Angeles argues that more permissive sign regulations in other states and countries have helped entice film and TV production away from L.A. and California.  The motion goes on to state that, “The City’s regulations restricting truthful commercial speech negatively impact job creation in the city” and have the “consequence of pushing commercial speakers away from the city, and thus away from Hollywood, which is detrimental to the social and economic welfare of the city, the State of California, and its people.”

Vanguard Outdoor, a one-person sign company cited by the city for putting up illegal supergraphic signs in several locations, filed a so-called copycat lawsuit against the city after a federal district court judge ruled in 2008 that the city’s ban on off-site and supergraphic signs was unconstitutional.  That ruling, in World Wide Rush vs. City of Los Angeles, was reversed last year by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit, but Vanguard Outdoor filed a new petition seeking an injunction against enforcement of the sign ban.  When the district court denied that petition, the company appealed to the 9th Circuit, which has not yet scheduled oral arguments in the case.

Unlike some other sign companies, Vanguard Outdoor did not immediately remove its illegal supergraphic signs in the wake of  last summer’s 9th Circuit ruling that the city’s ban on such signs outside sign districts was constitutional, although they were eventually taken down.  Prior to the 9th Circuit decision, the city filed criminal charges against the company and sign installers, and those charges are still pending in L.A. County Superior Court.

The foundation’s attorney is Donald Earl Childress III, a law professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu.  Links to the foundation’s website are currently not working, but according to an article last year in the “Latino Weekly Review” the foundation’s advisory board includes, in addition to Garcetti, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, City Controller Wendy Greuel, and City Councilman Bill Rosendahl.

An article last April in the L.A. Times stated that the foundation was the brainchild of State Sen. Ron Calderon, who authored a law providing tax credits for in-state film production, and that its executive director is Sharon Jimenez, a political and public relations consultant who is also married to Calderon’s communications aide.

Below, a sampling of ads for movies and tv shows on signs cited by the city as illegal.

Dennis Hathaway

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