The city of Los Angeles has some of the country’s most polluted air. It also has some of its most congested traffic. To address these problems, billions are being spent on mass transit projects, and various schemes are underway to shorten automobile trips and encourage residents to car pool and limit non-essential driving. So how should we regard the rapidly-growing phenomenon of mobile billboards mounted on trucks and trailers and driven through the streets or left sitting for days in highly sought-after parking spaces? As inevitable manifestations of commercial enterprise, or as destructive, anti-social assaults on our shared public spaces that ought to banned forthwith?
Some cities have done just that. San Francisco, for one example, and it’s worth reading the purpose section of its ordinance:
By their nature, commercial advertising vehicles are intended to distract, and aim to capture and hold the attention of, members of the public on or adjoining public streets, including drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and others. Moreover, such vehicles display commercial advertising from a mobile platform, including while the vehicle is moving within the flow of traffic, potentially stopping, starting, or turning abruptly, accentuating the inherent tendency of such advertising to seize attention and to distract. Additionally, the use of motor vehicles to display commercial advertising creates exhaust emissions. For these reasons, the Board of Supervisors finds that commercial advertising vehicles create aesthetic blight and visual clutter and create potential and actual traffic and health and safety hazards.
In Los Angeles, City Councilman Dennis Zine has authored a motion that would have the city council direct the City Attorney to present a draft ordinance to ban mobile billboards. That motion, co-sponsored by Councilman Paul Koretz and seconded by Bill Rosendahl, was made on Sept. 1, 2008, but the City Council has not taken any action on it.
As of now, no regulations apply to truck or trailer billboards moving through the streets. Parked billboards can be cited and towed if they aren’t moved in 72 hours, but only after notice is given. These parked billboards can also be cited on streets where signs prohibiting “unhitched trailers” have been posted. Because the billboard companies typically move the signs from place to place before 72 hours expires, and residents have to request the posting of the unhitched trailer signs, these regulations are basically meaningless.
For more, see Legal battle over mobile billboards to continue