Communities debate limits on billboards

| June 28, 2018 | 0 Comments

TWENTY neighborhood councils have asked for limits on digital signage.

The debate on billboards in Los Angeles has not been resolved since the Chronicle last reported on it in July 2017. However, 20 neighborhood councils recently have weighed in by submitting Community Impact Statements advocating limits on digital signage as per the “Version B+” draft billboard ordinance advanced by the City Planning Commission.

This version comes in contrast to a subsequent draft proposed by the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee of the City Council. The PLUM plan, supported by billboard companies and their lobbyists, would increase digital signage beyond the 22 possible regional commercial zones of the B+ Version, such as LA Live and Sunset Boulevard. For a new ordinance to be adopted, it must pass both the PLUM committee and the City Council with a two-thirds majority in favor.

Patrick Frank, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, says that the need for new billboard legislation has been acute for at least 10 years.

“The PLUM committee has been listening to billboard lobbyists all along … unfortunately, [the PLUM version] could very well pass the committee in its present form, even though it’s backed by special interests,” Frank said. “The billboard companies want to install digital signs because they are about 10 times more lucrative than an old-fashioned static sign.”

One major concern that Frank cites is safety and driver distraction caused by the bright and sometimes flashing digital signs. He points to a 2015 study in Florida and Alabama that found that crashes increased up to 29 percent in areas near a digital sign.

“Any place where there is a large billboard at an intersection, the PLUM version of the new ordinance could allow it to become digital,” Frank said.

Stop Billboard LA is another group seeking to raise public awareness of the imminent billboard ordinance threat.

Frank states that his next step is to encourage the remaining 76 Neighborhood Councils to submit Community Impact Statements in favor of the B+ Version and against the PLUM Version.

Members of the PLUM committee did not respond to calls for comment by this issue’s deadline.

Sarah Ryan, Hancock Park, is an incoming sophomore at Brown University.

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