Lawsuit Against City Attorney Seeks to Bar Arrest of Sign Law Violators and the Setting of “Excessive Bail.”

City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, Supergraphic on Office Building Near LAX

(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

7 Responses to “Lawsuit Against City Attorney Seeks to Bar Arrest of Sign Law Violators and the Setting of “Excessive Bail.””

  1. perfectworld says:

    I pray that this lawsuit gains traction and that the state uses some critical thinking and sides with these “parties of interest”. The city, state and banbilboardblight are mired in their own hypocrisy. We live in a metropolitan city of millions of people, not in the middle of a rain forest where these signs compromise the natural landscape. The criterion by which some locations are granted permits and most are not is laughable and embarrassing, not to mention hypocritical. So much time is wasted by city officials, banbillboardblight and the lot over vinyl advertising signs. Are we serious?! A third party should be engaged to execute a survey of Californians to show the opposition just how little people care about their extreme efforts to ban outdoor signage. Sometimes interest groups allow their cause to get in the way of reason. While their initial interest may be for the greater good, along the way their fight becomes irrational. The truth is, more than likely, that the very people who they claim to represent couldn’t care less about billboards and supergraphics and would undoubtedly have a laundry list of far more important blight issues that would genuinely have an impact on the environment and safety.

  2. Babs says:

    I must disagree with “perfect world’s” comments. As we all know, we live in a very imperfect world – and LA City’s enforcement of off-site signage and the 2002 ban on new billboards is a posterchild for that inconsistent and ineffectual enforcement UNTIL City Attorney Carmen Trutanich moved into the City Attorney’s office.

    The “parties of interest” are those parties that have had their hand in the cookie jar for their own engorgement for years. Whenever a sincere effort to enforce was planned, they sued. Now that the billboard settlements have been thrown out by the court and the lid on the cookie jar has been closed by the City Attorney, the outdoor advertisers and the landlords who will happily plaster their buildings with supergraphic signs for hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit, are faced with either complying with the law or litigating. Even if they have no hope to win, they will still litigate while their profits roll in. And besides, this is their m.o., to bully and litigate, litigate, and litigate in their attempts to stall and stop enforcement.

    When you say our fight may have become irrational though we may have had an interest as to the greater good initially, to that I ask whose interest is being served by the sign companies that put up supergraphic signs that risk people’s safety and degrade their quality of life. When San Francisco had a ban on new billboards on their ballot, it passed with almost 80 per cent of the vote. Do you think 80 per cent of the people in L.A., or even a majority, would vote for more billboards and supergraphic signs here?

  3. kayojon says:

    Welcome to Los Angeles as seen in the movie “Blade Runner”. This is the City that @perfectworld wants to live in. A City of corporate pimps bombarding the public with the advertising of everything from alcohol to porn. The problem is not that this pollution called advertising is spread around our City in a hypocritical way, it’s that this hanging smut was allowed to happen at all. It’s only through bribes and back room favors that the bums we call politicians allowed this blight into our City. That is why Carmen is the “hero” of Los Angeles, the only one who goes after the users who threaten our City with litigation blackmail and slip between the cracks in the cover of darkness to hang their rubbish. My Los Angeles is as beautiful as any rain forest. I love the new and older buildings that define the Cityscape. I’m disgusted when I see the distinctive architecture of Los Angeles covered by a filthy death shroud of vinyl signs. Please free my City of this refuse.

  4. antichumdinger says:

    you couldn’t have said it better perfectworld, i’m not bothered by these supergraphics, i think they’re cool. some are dangerous though, and some are rather unsightly. the TAPOUT supergraphic made me want to throw up every time i drove by it every morning, and the tropicana ad shielded the windows on the building. the DOLBY ad on wilshire is more my style. even though the huge wrinkled face is unsightly, at least it’s safely painted on so the people in the building can see out of it and air and window access is not restricted.

    i think supergraphics are the new billboards… the city should make a deal that for every four large-style billboards that come down one supergraphic can be installed. the large billboards are what annoy the hell out of me, they’re so ugly. the digital ones are rather pretty and interested to me though, and i can’t wait to see more of them converted into digital.

  5. kayojon says:

    A company will advertise their brand to add value to it’s company. Therefore the company has a gain. If the billboard is erected illegally, the company has gotten an ill gotten gain. If the company shows a pattern of illegal activity (see the amount of Pepsi or Chase Ads in LA) they should be brought up under the RICO Act. The RICO Act provides for extended criminal penalties and civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.

    As for the “First Amendment” cry about billboards, look at the fact that it’s just illegal graffiti. I can spray-paint all over your car or home…it’s free speech…but it’s still illegal graffiti.

  6. Tryingtoliveinla says:

    This entire situation is a load of crap.
    1. These “Supergraphics” bring Billions of dollars into the Los Angeles economy every year.
    2. They are expensive to produce (Done in L.A.)
    3.Expensive to install (Done in L.A.) and low and behold the landlords and Sales People live in L.A.
    City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is abusing his power and should be removed from office before he commits millions of dollars the city doesn’t have in a legal battle he shouldn’t win.
    Super Graphics have become the next cool thing, They have been installed the same way for years all over the country and there has been less problems resulting from supergraphics than people blaming their prius for speeding away.
    Thousands of people already suffering from a bad economy are now having their incomes literally confiscated by a guy we have been paying through state income taxes, sales taxes, and entertainment that we bring into the city.
    Supergraphic companies are not selling dope to kids, pushing cigarettes to minors, or lurking around school yards. They are advertising consumer goods that people buy.
    Way to go L.A., Just keep restricting your citizens ability to earn and once again, they will leave the state. You cant balance your budget now, what are you going to do with a few billion less this year.
    I remember when the governors face was on a supergraphic advertising a consumer good known as a “feature film”, Made in L.A. by the people who live in L.A.
    Oh that’s right, people are now filming in Canada and other places, why you ask? Because L.A. has made even that industry suffer to the point nobody wants to deal with them.
    Sure I am Biased, its my industry, but I’m just a guy trying to live in L.A.

  7. kayojon says:

    If I pick up and look through a magazine, I know I’m going to read advertisements. If I turn on network TV, I know I’m going to see advertisements. But if I’m driving or walking in the public right of way and want to take in the view of the mountains, trees and architecture, I shouldn’t have to see the visual pollution you call billboards. One is my choice, and the other is an illegal violation of my space. Sell all the advertising you want, just don’t force it on me.

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