Rogue Sign Company That Fled L.A. Loses Court Fight in San Francisco

Fuel Outdoor, a New York company that put up hundreds of illegal advertising signs in L.A. and then took them down last year after losing a five-year court battle to overturn the city’s ban on new off-site signs, has suffered a major loss in a similar fight against sign regulations in San Francisco.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton ruled that San Francisco could constitutionally ban off-site advertising on private property even though it allows that advertising on public property such as bus shelters and other transit facilities.  This same issue was at the heart of a 2004 lawsuit by a company named Metrolights against the city of L.A.  Metrolights was later bought out by Fuel Outdoor.

The city’s right to prohibit the company’s signs, which were essentially the same size as bus shelter and street furniture ads, was upheld in 2009 by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  After the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the decision, the signs, often placed in groups of two or more on the sides of buildings and the edges of parking lots and other commercial properties, were removed.

There is no indication whether the company intends to appeal Judge Hamilton’s ruling in San Francisco, but since it was based on the 9th Circuit ruling in the L.A. case, it would seem that the chances for success are highly questionable.

Early last year, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals denied a legal challenge by Fuel Outdoor to New York City regulations that prohibited the company’s signs.  Philadelphia has also been battling the company over illegal placement of its signs.

Dennis Hathaway

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