Lawsuit Against City Attorney Seeks to Bar Arrest of Sign Law Violators and the Setting of “Excessive Bail.”
(Update: On April 2, U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins denied the request for a restraining order against City Attorney Carmen Trutanich)
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by the president of three outdoor advertising firms and a property rights group, also lists 15 “parties of interest”, including the building owner arrested last month and held for a weekend in jail on $1 million bail after allowing a huge unpermitted supergraphic sign to be put up on his Hollywood Blvd. building.
The lawsuit asks that the city’s ban on off-site and supergraphic signs be declared unconstitutional, and that City Attorney Carmen Trutanich be enjoined from any action that results in the arrest of alleged sign law violators. Trutanich came under criticism for last month’s jailing of Keyvan Setareh, owner of the building at Hollywood and Highland that displayed a supergraphic for the Dreamworks movie “How to Train Your Dragon” but said the $1 million bail was justified by public safety risks posed by the unpermitted, uninspected sign at an intersection heavily populated by motorists and pedestrians.
The plaintiffs are J. Keith Stephens, identified as president of L.A. Outdoor Advertising, Valley Outdoor, and Virtual Media Group; and California Property Owners Organization, Inc.
In addition to Setareh, the “parties of interest” include two outdoor advertising firms, seven corporations, and five individuals.
In 2008, L.A. Outdoor Advertising and Valley Outdoor sued the city after being cited for erecting three full-sized billboards without permits along the north side of the 110 freeway downtown. Last year the city filed a counterclaim asking for a fine of $2,500 each day the signs were up in violation of the city’s ban on new off-site signs, an amount that could add up to several million dollars. The lawsuit is still working its way through the federal courts.
According to the latest lawsuit, the plaintiffs “control” 20 locations in the city where supergraphic signs are currently displayed, and 10 locations which are “suitable” for displaying supergraphic signs. In addition, the ‘parties of interest” control 16 locations suitable for displaying supergraphic signs, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit alleges that the city undermines its arguments for prosecuting violators of the supergraphic sign ban by allowing the same kind of signs in other locations. Cited are supergraphics put up on buildings owned by CIM Group at 1800 N. Highland and Sunset and Vine in Hollywood, and by a company called In Plain Sight Media on the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
The signs on the CIM Group’s building at Sunset & Vine were permitted under the regulations of the Hollywood Sign District, and the signs at 1800 N. Highland were taken down after the CRA notified the company that they violated its redevelopment agreement. The city has cited the signs at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and is embroiled in yet another lawsuit by the sign company seeking a court order to keep them up.Dennis Hathaway