Midtown Crossing Developer: Either Approve a Sign District To Allow Supergraphic Billboards, or the Project Will Remain a Dusty Hole in the Ground
A representative of CIM Group, the developer of the Midtown Crossing shopping center, told a neighborhood council committee last week that the project can’t be built without including 11 large supergraphic billboards. CIM vice president Philip Freidl told the Mid-City Neighborhood Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee that the company originally purchased the property with the expectation that the city would approve a special sign district to allow off-site advertising that is otherwise prohibited by the city sign code.
The 11 large billboards arrayed around the shopping center would face Pico and Venice Blvds., and advertise products and services other than those sold on the premises. Graphic displays brought to the meeting by Friedl and an assistant showed 14 such billboards, including one digital, but he said that the number has since been reduced in response to community concerns about the impact on surrounding residential neighborhoods. Friedl said that the project won’t pencil out without the revenue from the supergraphic signs, which can earn up to $50,000 a month for property owners in high-traffic locations.
CIM Group was the subject of a recent Los Angeles Times article exposing the fact that it has allowed illegal supergraphic signs on some of its properties. At a meeting last week, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency board expressed dismay at this disclosure, and some commissioners questioned whether the city should continue to do business with the company which has received city subsidies for several projects, including more than $14 million for Midtown Crossing.
The initial public hearing by the city planning department on the company’s application for a sign district is scheduled for April 6. A new city sign ordinance, which would not allow a sign district such as the one proposed for Midtown Crossing, is scheduled to be voted on by the City Planning Commission March 18. However, the new ordinance contains a provision that “grandfathers” all seven sign district applications currently pending in the planning department, allowing them to go forward under current, less restrictive criteria.
CIM Group is a major property owner and developer in Hollywood and downtown L.A., and has developed projects or has projects underway in other cities, including Santa Monica, Pasadena, Anaheim, and San Jose. None of those cities allow billboards or other forms of off-site advertising.
According to City Ethics Commission reports, the firm spent almost $1.3 million lobbying city agencies on behalf of its projects in the past five years. In addition, persons listed as CIM group executives and employees have contributed $54,000 to city election campaigns since the 2001 election. The major recipients of this largesse have been Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, $12,000, Councilmember Jan Perry, $3,000, and Councilmember and City Attorney candidate Jack Weiss, $2,250.Dennis Hathaway