The failure of the city council to act on the billboard moratorium approved a month ago by the City Planning Commission (CPC) has directly benefited several high-profile developments in downtown Los Angeles, and could also benefit a large commercial development in the midtown area.
The original moratorium as proposed by just-resigned CPC president Jane Usher and the city attorney’s office would have applied to any billboard or other off-site advertising sign that hadn’t been issued a building permit. The commission added an exemption for signs not yet permitted but that are part of city-entitled development projects, even though a deputy city attorney argued that this exemption could compromise the city’s ability to enforce the moratorium.
On Dec. 11, the CPC approved a sign supplemental use district to allow video screens and other forms of large-scale advertising signage in a square block adjacent to L.A. Live and Staples Center. Included in the sign district are recently-completed and ongoing development projects, including developer Sonny Astani’s Concerto condominium project, which gained notoriety earlier this year for a proposed 14-story high electronic “dancing girl” incorporated into the building façade. (The sign district just approved includes a scaled-back version of that proposed sign.)
If the billboard moratorium referred to the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) committee on Nov. 25 had been approved before yesterday’s CPC action, none of the proposed off-site advertising signs could have been permitted during the moratorium, which has an initial term of six months, with the possibility of three 3-month extensions.
Another project that could potentially benefit from inaction on the moratorium is the Midtown Crossing commercial development at Pico and San Vicente Blvds. A proposed sign district to allow large-scale supergraphic billboards is now pending in the city planning department, but could soon be coming before the City Planning Commission for approval.
The project is being partly bankrolled by the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) and earlier this year CRA commissioner Alejandro Ortiz was quoted in the L.A. Times as calling the proposed signs “blight” and “debasing to the community.” If the sign district proposed by city councilman Herb Wesson is approved, the signs could go up even if the city council adopts the moratorium.Dennis Hathaway