New digital billboard laws set for consideration in Los Angeles – LA Daily News
Comstock Hills Homeowners Association president Jan Reichmann was elated two years ago when the digital billboards in her Westside neighborhood went dark, the result of a judge’s order to shut down the blinking displays.
Now, digital signs may be returning to Los Angeles.
Sparking a new round of debate about where to place digital displays in Los Angeles, a City Hall panel on Tuesday will consider a new law. At issue is whether to limit the billboards to special “districts” or allow them throughout the city via a special permit.
“I don’t want them,” Reichmann said of the electronic signage. “But if a community wants them, let them create a district.”
The proposals underscore the challenge Los Angeles faces in regulating digital billboards in a city where neighborhoods have sharply different reactions to outdoor advertising.
Some Westside communities have pushed back against the displays, complaining of the boards’ harsh glare, while several San Fernando Valley council members contend the signs could revitalize struggling commercial areas.
Digital billboards are largely banned in the city, except within sign districts in places like downtown or at Los Angeles International Airport.
On Tuesday, lawmakers will consider allowing two dozen districts, designating areas for digital signs in neighborhoods such as Koreatown, North Hollywood and Warner Center. The city would have to approve each individual district.
Additionally, the panel may allow digital billboards to rise outside of districts through a permitting process, giving sign companies more options for placement.
The L.A. Outdoor Advertising Coalition, which represents a number of sign companies, backs the plan for both districts and special permits. Stacy Miller, executive director of the coalition, said the outside permitting plan would give residents and council members “discretion over what happens in their community.”
Clear Channel Outdoor, which was forced to take down dozens of digital billboards on the Westside after a lawsuit by a competing sign company, also supports the special permitting provision, company spokeswoman Fiona Hutton said.
The billboard company is hoping to use such permits to re-light some of its darkened Westside billboards, Hutton said.
Allowing digital signs outside of sign districts is opposed by Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, who views the provision as a gift from the city to billboard companies.
“You’re going to see a proliferation of digital billboards across the city,” he predicted.
Angry Silver Lake residents protested in 2008 at City Hall after a digital billboard was suddenly installed in their leafy neighborhood, prompting then-City Councilman Eric Garcetti to help shut down the board.
On Friday, Mayor Garcetti was asked if digital billboards should be allowed outside sign districts.
“I have wanted to have pretty strict limits on digital billboards, if they’re considered anywhere,” he said. “I also think that, moving forward, we should do revenue shares, as other cities have done, to help us be able to sustain city services.”
Several other politicians, including Valley council members Paul Krekorian and Nury Martinez, have said they are open to adding digital billboards.
Krekorian proposed creating a sign district in Laurel Canyon several years ago to attract investment. This week, spokesman Ian Thompson said the councilman supports electronic signage in the area if the displays are part of an appropriate redevelopment project.
Councilwoman Nury Martinez also said in her recent re-election campaign that she supports digital billboards in the San Fernando Valley if takedowns of static signs are done as well.
Meanwile, West Hollywood and Glendale have allowed supergraphics and digital signs, respectively, as part of an advertising revenue sharing deal with the city.
The permitting process isn’t the only controversial measure expected to be debated at Tuesday’s hearing. Another provision expected to be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting would allow roughly 1,000 billboards with missing or incomplete permits to be “legalized” rather than put into compliance.
City Attorney Mike Feuer on Friday sent a letter to the council urging members not to include an amnesty provision in the new ordinance. Such a clause, he wrote, would give a pass to “violators of the City’s billboard laws.”