Violation? What Violation? Many Altered Billboards Left Off City’s List

2897 W Olympic 3

The billboard pictured above on Olympic Blvd. In L.A.’s Koreatown area is 16 feet higher than allowed by its permit, according to city inspection records. However, the sign owned by Outfront Media is nowhere to be found on a list of 391 billboards the city says have been altered in violation of their permits.

That list is based upon a citywide billboard inventory and inspection completed in 2014 by the city’s Department of Building and Safety. But a previous inventory, made public in 2012, shows that nearly 200 billboards altered in violation of their permits have not been included in the 2014 count.

The 391 billboards on the current list have almost all had second faces added without permits. Most of the altered billboards left off the list are higher or larger than specified by their permits, according to the 2012 inventory.

While some of the violations are relatively minor, many are not, such as the aforementioned billboard on Olympic Blvd. A number are between 10 and 16 feet higher than permitted, while others fall into the range of five to 10 feet higher. The inspection data doesn’t show whether the billboards were raised at some point after erection, or originally put up in violation of their permits.

The 2012 inventory also shows many billboards larger than permitted that aren’t on the 2014 list of altered signs. Again, some variations are minor, while other billboard faces exceed their permitted size by upwards of 30 per cent.

In addition, the 2012 records contain a number of billboards that have had second faces added in violation of their permits but aren’t listed as altered in the 2014 list.

The City Council’s PLUM committee has proposed granting “amnesty” to the 391 billboards currently listed as altered. The City Attorney has publicly opposed such an action, and the matter is now before the City Planning Commission, which is scheduled to resume discussions of the proposed amnesty and other sign ordinance issues on Oct. 22.

Lest anyone argue that all the height and size violations are minor, consider the fact that last winter a billboard on Lankershim Blvd. in the San Fernando Valley toppled on a windy night and nearly hit an occupied car.  That billboard was 8 feet higher than specified by its permit, and it may have been more vulnerable, structurally, than a billboard at the permitted height.

And a billboard 58 ft. high, such as the one in the photograph above, is certainly more visible at a longer distance than one at the permitted height of 42 ft.  Just as a billboard with an ad space 30 per cent larger than permitted clearly has more impact on its intended audience of motorists inching along in the city’s notorious traffic.

Dennis Hathaway

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.