Digital billboard ordinance on a ‘dangerous’ path back to PLUM

| April 1, 2021 | 0 Comments

DIGITAL SIGNS on bus shelters are being promoted by billboard lobbyists.

Revisions to billboard and other signage law in Los Angeles are on a dangerous path if you ask Patrick Frank, president of Scenic Los Angeles.

His group recently declared victory after the City Planning Commission approved a citywide sign ordinance, Version B-Plus, which would restrict new digital billboards to Regional Commercial Centers, such as the Staples Center and Sunset Boulevard.

“This was a milestone, worth celebrating by everyone who cares about scenic beauty, traffic safety and reducing billboard blight,” said Frank following the Feb. 26 unanimous Commission vote.

However, not everyone was exuberant with the decision.

“Version B-Plus has been hotly contested since its [2015] inception,” according to billboard  Also posted on the online site after the recent Commission hearing: “Public comments were close to evenly split on the advantages and perceived disadvantages of digital displays.  The Commission’s decision expresses a far more one-sided view, with some Commissioners arguing there are no reasonable community benefits that warrant turning Los Angeles into Times Square or West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.”

Paid lobbyists spoke in favor of the digital signs, said Frank, while the 30 neighborhood groups that have weighed in on the issue support the restrictions. “Several folks from our side made excellent statements, and the Neighborhood Councils that testified added measurable heft to our position,” added Frank, who also spoke at the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council Land Use Committee meeting March 23.

Return to PLUM

Despite the Planning Commission’s approval, the proposed ordinance embarks on a   slippery slope when it returns to the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee of the City Council, where some of the elected officials have been more favorable to the billboard industry in the past, Frank said.

PLUM’s “dangerous” alternate version of a new billboard ordinance, revised in Dec. 2020, would allow billboards in every commercial zone that is one block in size, which is most of them, said Frank.

Local streets that could be impacted with additional signage if PLUM’s version were to be approved include Olympic and Wilshire boulevards, Melrose and La Brea avenues and Third Street, to name a few.

PLUM’s version also allows for a more lenient takedown plan. (The B-Plus version requires removing 10 static signs in exchange for erecting one digital sign.) The PLUM version stipulates that 30 digital billboards must be erected on city-owned lots before any can be placed on private land.

The city’s financial woes in 2015 motivated PLUM members to ease billboard restrictions to raise funds, Frank said.

A brighter financial future — augmented by the recent $1.35 billion federal bailout for the city — might help ensure an outcome with less billboard blight, hopes Frank.

The ordinance is expected to return to PLUM from the Planning Commission, although a date had not been set as we went to press. It requires a two-thirds vote of the full City Council to pass.

Digital bus shelter signs

Frank told us there is another imminent threat of visual blight coming to neighborhoods — digital signs on bus shelters. Frank urges residents to respond to a separate, related issue — where lobbyists are pushing for digital ad screens on bus shelters. This attempt is taking a separate path through the Public Works Dept.

“If you are part of a Neighborhood Council or local association and would like us to make a presentation about either of these issues, please get in touch by emailing,” he said.

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