Proposed Alcohol Ad Ban Finally Sees Some Action

An effort to ban alcohol advertising on city-owned property in L.A. has finally taken an important–if tentative–step forward after languishing for almost ten months in the City Council’s public safety committee.

At a committee meeting last Friday, chairman Mitchell Englander asked the city’s chief legislative analyst, the city attorney, and several city departments to report within 60 days on the feasibility and impacts of such a ban. Currently, almost all such advertising is on bus shelters and other items of street furniture set in the public right-of-way.

A motion to enact the alcohol ads ban was introduced in August of last year by Councilman Richard Alarcon and seconded by Councilmen Bill Rosendahl, Paul Koretz, Tony Cardenas, and Jose Huizar.  The motion was referred to the public safety committee, but until last week Englander declined to bring it up for discussion, despite pressure from a coalition of community groups involved with issues of health, safety and substance abuse.

It appeared on the agenda only after Alarcon sent a letter to Englander, stressing the need to reduce outdoor advertising of alcohol and pointing out that young people under the age 19 whom studies have shown to be particularly susceptible to such advertising comprise 26% of the city’s population.

Despite the fact that only 24 hours notice was given of Friday’s committee meeting, rather than the usual 72 hours, more than a dozen persons appeared to speak in favor of the alcohol ad ban. Among them were several persons who had been in treatment for alcohol abuse and said that billboards and other outdoor signs advertising alcoholic definitely influenced them to want to drink at a young age.

Englander and the other committee members present, Joe Buscaino and Dennis Zine, did not comment directly on the desirability of an alcohol ad ban. However, Englander said he had a number of questions he wanted reports on, including the possible impact on revenue the city collects by allowing advertising space on public property.

CBS/Decaux, a joint venture of the U.S. billboard giant CBS Outdoor and J.C. Decaux, the largest billboard company in Europe, has a 20-year contract with the city to provide bus shelters and other street furniture. That contract, which expires in 2021,  calls for CBS/Decaux to pay the city a minimum of $150 million for the 20-year duration of the contract.

Half of the revenue goes to the city’s general fund; the other half goes into a special fund that is divided equally between the 15 council offices for use in community projects and improvements for transit patrons.

Representatives from CBS Outdoor and lobbyists representing the company were at Friday’s committee meeting, but did not speak on the alcohol ads motion.

While an alcohol ad ban would likely not apply to the current street furniture contract before it expires, future contracts involving advertising on public property would be targeted. Those include billboards proposed for the facade of the city convention center and the signs included in a proposed sign district for the Los Angeles International Airport.

See also:   LA Daily News article on meeting.

For more on the alcohol ads ban, including material on the financial costs to the city of alcohol abuse,  go to NoAlcoholAds website.

Dennis Hathaway

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