Friday, March 19, 2010

The Mad Men of Los Angeles

Christine Pelisek has written an incredibly articulate article on the nature of LA's illegal outdoor advertising problem. She spoke to us and included the Weave It! piece we did while out in LA not too long ago. The one thing I would note is that while illegal signage is problematic, it is the use of public space for commercial interest that is really the issue. We should remain aware of this and not give up once illegal signs are removed. Eventually we should take after Sao Paolo and ban it all, period.

The Mad Men of Los Angeles
Living the good life, thanks to the big profits from illegal outdoor advertising

by Christine Pelisek

Supergraphic multimillionaire Barry Rush couldn't have been pleased to hear a few weeks ago that Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich had taken the audacious step of jailing a compatriot in arms, a Hollywood landlord who, for an undisclosed sum, cut a deal with a shadowy firm that draped an illegal supergraphic around a historic Hollywood Boulevard building. [More Here]

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Now You See Them, Now You Don’t: Fuel Outdoor Signs in L.A. Coming Down

In an unusually progressive move by an outdoor advertising company, Fuel Outdoor has begun removing signs in New York, and now LA, reports BBB. Of course this isn't some magnificent act of altruism but the result of a lengthy legal battle which finally ended in a decision against the offending company. We thought the signs might stay up despite the supreme court decision but the Fuel obviously knows better. Now what to do with all the empty frames they will leave behind on structures where removal might take some real elbow grease?

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

Fuel Outdoor, the rogue sign company that failed to win a lawsuit challenging the city’s right to ban new off-site advertising signs, has begun taking down the movie-poster style signs installed without permits in a number of locations. Whether the New York-based company intends to remove all its estimated 200-plus signs is not known. [More Here]

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Major Campaign Donors, Friends of City Council Members Have Connections to Rogue Sign Company Named by City Attorney in Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit

As per usual, Ban Billboard Blight gets right to the point when revealing outdoor advertising's soft underbelly. Here they expose NPA, a company we have been at odds with in NY, for the ad pushers they are, citing over $85,000 in campaign contributions to the city of LA. As Ban Billboard Blight has their hands full in LA, we can only hope that their progress on the west coast stirs action on ours.

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

Peter Zackery, president of National Promotions and Advertising (NPA), a company specializing in poster-style advertising on construction fences and billboards on outside walls of liquor stores, donut shops and other small businesses, is one of the defendants in the major lawsuit filed this week against World Wide Rush, a company accused of putting up numerous illegal supergraphic signs. Another NPA executive, Gary Shafner, was not named in the suit, but is prominently mentioned in court filings in an unrelated case as having been involved in the initial establishment of World Wide Rush in the L.A. market three years ago. [More Here]

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

“Renegade Sign Bandits” Call Attention to Fuel Outdoor’s Illegal Billboards

Ban Billboard Blight reports that "renegade sign bandits" have hit the streets of LA plastering Fuel Outdoors' illegal signage with violation notices from the city of LA. It should be noted that New York is also a victim of Fuel Outdoor and it's illegal advertising signage. According to BBB, "A spokesperson for the L.A. Department of Building and Safety confirmed that the city had nothing to do the notices." Clearly this is a public reaction to LA's unwillingness to follow through with sign removal after a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision not to hear Metrolights' appeal put the final nail in the coffin that is their legal battle to legitimize their illegal signage business. More [HERE]

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Graffiti, Billboards, and Reclaiming Public Space Appropriated by Illegal Advertising

The most recent post written by Dennis on Ban Billboard blight asks what the difference is between illegal advertising and graffiti, or what I would refer to as scrawl since I know many extremely talented graffiti artists. After citing LA Municipal code's definition of graffiti he comes to the conclusion that they are indeed very similar despite one being a serious crime punishable by serious jail time, while the other often seems to be quietly tolerated by most cities in our country.

I would add that there is another huge difference which I think is often overlooked and which makes graffiti the lesser crime, or at least the one done out of neccessity or survival, while advertising is done for pure profit. Many sociological looks at graffiti practitioners, including several wonderful books by Jeff Ferrell, make the point that graffiti is an outlet of expression for many youth which find themselves unable to assert their identity in our society. Constantly bombarded by corporate iconography and invisible in a cities of millions flying from one place to the next, tagging your surroundings becomes a way to integrate yourself into the city's fabric. Tagging may not be the best way to do so but we have to admit that there might be a social failure at work here, instead of seeing it as an aggressive act of destruction at the hands of deranged youth, that so often describes graffiti practice.

In fact here at PublicAdCampaign we have come to believe that actively altering your public space has enormous psychological benefits for those participating in the act. The act of altering your public space creates a link between the person who made the alteration and the space in which that alteration was made. This bond engenders a sense of responsibility for that space. Someone who feels responsibility for parts of the city will protect that space because in fact that space is now a representation of yourself.

Graffiti may not be the best or most appreciated way for individuals to create psychic connections with their public environment but we think it is just that. If we accept this fact then we might do better spending our tax dollars on programs which allow youth to create meaningful bonds with their city environment instead of hunting them down and throwing them in jail. If we do this we might even find our city beautified by public mural projects, community gardens, neighborhood festivities and a more lively public space that pleases the senses instead of insulting our intelligence.

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

What is the difference between those who spray paint gang slogans and other kinds of graffiti on public walls and companies that put up illegal billboards and supergraphic signs? What is the difference, fundamentally, between graffiti and illegal outdoor advertising? Both make a claim on public space, saying “Look at this!” without observing any laws or considering that citizens might deserve a voice in what they’re forced to see when they drive, walk, or otherwise experience their urban environment.[MORE]

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mobile Billboards: Bringing More Air Pollution, Traffic Congestion, Parking Problems

I love Ban Billboard Blight for their continued coverage of LA based outdoor advertising issues. In their most recent post on mobile billboards they pose this question...
So how should we regard the rapidly-growing phenomenon of mobile billboards mounted on trucks and trailers and driven through the streets or left sitting for days in highly sought-after parking spaces? As inevitable manifestations of commercial enterprise, or as destructive, anti-social assaults on our shared public spaces that ought to banned forthwith?
The San Francisco ordinance banning mobile advertising is explained like this...
By their nature, commercial advertising vehicles are intended to distract, and aim to capture and hold the attention of, members of the public on or adjoining public streets, including drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and others. Moreover, such vehicles display commercial advertising from a mobile platform, including while the vehicle is moving within the flow of traffic, potentially stopping, starting, or turning abruptly, accentuating the inherent tendency of such advertising to seize attention and to distract. Additionally, the use of motor vehicles to display commercial advertising creates exhaust emissions. For these reasons, the Board of Supervisors finds that commercial advertising vehicles create aesthetic blight and visual clutter and create potential and actual traffic and health and safety hazards.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Supreme Court Won’t Hear Metrolights Appeal: Will Those Illegal Billboards Now Come Down?

Now that Metro Fuel has exhausted its options trying to legalize the non-permitted city signs they installed years ago without any discussion with the city of New York, we should see them come down. How fast this will happen is a matter of debate.

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

The legal battle over the hundreds of movie poster-style billboards put up in L.A. without permits the past five years apparently reached an end today, when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review an appellate court decision that the city’s off-site sign ban can be used to prohibit the company’s signs. [More Here]

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Judge Says 2006 Lawsuit Settlement Allowing Digital Billboards in L.A. is Illegal, Calls Agreement Between City and Billboard Companies “Poison”

Via Ban Billboard Blight

Superior Court Judge Terry Green ruled today that the lawsuit settlement giving Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor the right to convert 840 conventional billboards to digital violated the law by exempting those conversions from any zoning regulations or requirements for notice and public hearings. [More Here]

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Are You Scared Yet?

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

Big Brother Watching? How Digital Billboards Can Help Turn Public Space Into a Giant Spycam

The video above illustrates how a digital billboard in the UK reads license numbers of passing cars and uses that information to interact with the driver in an oil company marketing campaign. Digital billboards are already capable of determining what radio stations are on in passing cars, and billboards with embedded cameras and software to determine the gender and age of passersby are being tested in several places.

Objections to digital billboards are usually based one or more of the following: their extreme brightness, which constitutes visual blight and causes light trespass into homes and apartments; their excessive energy consumption; and their potential to distract drivers and present a hazard to motorists and pedestrians. But what of their potential, currently limited only by technology, to observe, record, and otherwise invade the privacy of anyone who happens into their territory? There aren’t any legal limits on this invasive activity, and the advertising industry is busily devising ever-more sophisticated means of gathering information and targeting consumers.

Which raises the question: Do people give up any right to privacy once they get into a car and drive down the street?

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

City Attorney Trutanich Goes After Pocketbook of Rogue Billboard Company

Considering the law, and simple respect for the public's wishes doesn't deter outdoor advertising companies from operating illegally in our shared common spaces, penalties are the only way to curb aggressive media takeovers of our public environment. Often these penalties seem outrageously large to the layman, but are in fact much less than is needed to stop illegal billboards from blighting the public.

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

Two years ago, a company called L.A. Outdoor Advertising put up full-sized billboards along the north side of the Harbor freeway downtown. There were some problems with this—the company hadn’t obtained any permits and the billboards violated various sections of the city’s sign code relating to height and freeway proximity, in addition to the general prohibition on off-site advertising signs.

The city cited the company, and predictably, the company reacted by suing in federal court to block enforcement. Now, as the suit works its way through the legal system, newly-elected City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has filed a counterclaim seeking more than $6 million in damages and an order requiring the removal of three of the billboards, which are on private property but less than 100 feet from the roadway.

This welcome action addresses an ongoing complaint about enforcement of sign regulations—that the penalties for violations are so insignificant that a company eyeing the considerable revenue from billboards and supergraphic signs in prime locations like the freeways will simply consider it a cost of doing business.

That complaint is valid if the city relies on the penalty in the municipal code for sign violations—a maximum of $100 a day. However, the municipal code also states that any violation may be designated a “public nuisance” and subject to a fine of up to $2,500 a day. That provision hasn’t been used in the past for sign code violations, for reasons that could be open to speculation, but include the fact that the building department can’t simply levy the fine but must rely on legal action by the City Attorney.

The City Attorney has also gone after the owners of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and the company that put up a huge supergraphic sign on one side of the historic building without permits.

No doubt these cases will drag through the courts for some time before any final resolution. But if the city prevails, it could throw a big monkey wrench into the strategy of rogue sign companies, which is to put billboards and supergraphic signs wherever they can get property owners to sign leases, then sue when inspectors come around to point out the violations of the sign code.

These companies appear to be operating on the theory that even if they ultimately lose in court they stand to make millions in the interim from advertising revenue. If they could lose all or most of that revenue, they might think twice before digging that hole in the ground or hanging that ad over the side of a building.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

From “Bank of Hollywood Building” to “Patron Tequila”: The Evolution of an Historic Roof Sign

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

Anyone prowling Hollywood after dark has probably seen the very large, flashing, Vegas-like image of a tequila bottle atop a 12-story building at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine. But few of those persons probably know that the sign originally spelled out the legend, “Bank of Hollywood Building” in 10 ft. high letters without benefit of...[MORE]

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eyesore of the Week: Brought to You By CBS Outdoor

Ban Billboard Blight always does a good job of shining a light on outdoor advertising's shortcomings and general double talk. This recent post is no different.

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

This billboard on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood is just a stone’s throw from the glitzy intersections of Sunset & Vine and Hollywood & Vine. [MORE]

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

City Seeks Huge Fine and Order To Remove Unpermitted Supergraphic on Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel

Plastering our public with private commercial messages is not a "1st amendment right to free speech" issue. We censor many media in our public spaces, including cigarette and alcohol ads. These ads are extremely influential and have been deemed hazards to our collective social health. The giant supergraphics in LA, although not touting addictive and physically harmful products, are no less influential in their pushing of other products. The request to remove these other signs from the public environment is for our collective mental health and should be honored with the same respect.

VIA Ban Billboard Blight
The battle between the city and the owners of the historically-registered Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel over the right to keep a supergraphic ad on the side of the building landed in federal court two months ago, with the hotel owner and sign company claiming that the city’s refusal to issue a permit for the sign is a violation of the 1st amendment right to free speech.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Lamar Advertising’s “Billboard Reduction” Plan: Why L.A. Should Show the Company the Door

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

Up until two years ago, this Louisiana-based billboard company had virtually no presence in L.A., although it was the largest owner of billboards nationwide. Then it shelled out $100 million for Vista Media, a company with some 4,000 signs, and just like that became the largest owner of billboards in L.A. Now it wants to trade almost all of those signs—remove them, in other words—for the right to put up brand new billboards, some digital, and many on city-owned property in exchange for the payment of a fee to fatten starving city coffers. [More]

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fighting The Outdoor Advertising Invasion: A Trivial Pursuit?

The writing below is a wonderful answer to a question I am often asked, and even ask myself sometimes. The explanation of why controlling commercial messages is an important pursuit is directly in line with my own thinking. The only differing opinion I have with the text is with the idea that those who wish to be overwhelmed and underwhelmed by the outdoor advertising industry be granted their wish. Other than Times Square, where advertising and it's permanence give that location a place and definition, large commercial messages do nothing to improve upon our shared public environment. Those who may think that they want to look at over sized images for the latest summer blockbuster or newest offering from The GAP are under the influence. Addicted to consumerist tendencies and desires, outdoor advertising provides a fix of sorts for those buried too deep in the rites and rituals of a capitalist society. Because of this I think the goals of those who fight outdoor advertising should not just stop at control, but rather elimination from the landscape entirely.

VIA-Ban Billboard Blight

From time to time, someone will take offense at our activities on the grounds that advocating for protection of the visual environment from an onslaught of commercial advertising is a trivial cause compared to fighting poverty, or global warming, or gang warfare, or any number of other social and environmental ills. In other words, “Can’t you find something more important to be bothered about?”

Well, yes. We could join the quest to find cures for cancer, or to reduce the rate of infant mortality. We could go around cajoling smokers to quit smoking, and obese people to lose weight. Instead, we chose to stick our fingers in the porous dike that separates the public spaces of our city from a tidal wave constructed by those who want you to see commercial messages wherever you drive, walk, bicycle, sit, and otherwise experience the urban environment.

A trivial cause? Consider the ongoing implosion of our economic system, which in a very large measure was built upon the principle of consumption. Our jobs, our homes, our cars, our lifestyles dependent upon people shopping, which means reacting to those ubiquitous signs urging us to buy a hot new product or sign up for the latest service. We don’t need text explaining the wonders awaiting us, just an image to trigger a reflexive desire to consume, as though we were a collective Pavlov’s dog.

We don’t hate advertising. Retail businesses need to attract customers, so they can pay their employees and fund their owners’ retirement plans. We don’t even hate billboards, having experienced a tug of nostalgia while browsing the classic billboard images in the June issue of Los Angeles magazine. And we’re old enough to fondly recall the sight of Burma Shave signs scrolling past the windows of the family sedan as it rolled along a Midwestern highway.

But that was then, as the saying goes, and now is now. Entire buildings are turned into advertisements. Digital billboards with their dialed-up illumination dominate the night at busy intersections. How many times do we need to be told to buy an Ipod or sign up with Verizon or chow down on a McDonald’s hamburger? In some quaint past billboards urged passersby to eat at Myrtle’s Café, or spend the night at the Shady Rest Motel. Now they urge-no, demand-that you buy a ticket for the latest blockbuster movie, or tune in to the latest titillation offered by Fox TV. What we have is a voracious corporate appetite for “branding” that is ubiquitous-seen everywhere, all the time, impossible to evade or ignore.

We understand that some people feel this trend to a Blade Runner, Minority Report-esque future is perfectly okay. We understand that some serious commentators believe that raising alarms about this future is just the fustiness of people-likely to be white, affluent, middle-aged homeowners-who live in L.A. but want to believe they’re really in some small town with white picket fences, elm trees shading the lawns, and friendly mail carriers who stop to pet the dog and exchange observations about the kids and the weather. People likely to be frightened by the very things that make the urban environment vital and exciting-pulsating images projected onto the sides of buildings, dramatic light shows, vivid graphic expressions that may be intent upon selling you something, but so what?

Yes, so what? If you want to hang out in Times Square with the hordes of tourists amidst the oversized ads staring down from all directions, by all means do it. If you want to drive back and forth on the Sunset Strip gawking at the billboards, nobody is trying to stop you. If you want to spend your nights at L.A. Live gazing in wonderment at the multi-story Nokia and Coca-Cola ads, be our guest. You have your idea of pleasure, we have ours. The problem comes when your idea trumps ours and the experience you want becomes the universal experience, and because you happen to like bright digital billboards and huge supergraphic signs everyone has to see them whenever they venture any distance from their abodes.

Giving people the choice to see or not to see advertising might seem reasonable, even democratic, but it works against the principle at the heart of the outdoor advertising industry, which is that effective advertising is advertising that cannot be turned off, cannot be fast-forwarded, cannot be avoided by turning the page or getting up and walking out of the room. In a heavily fractured media environment a captive audience has great value, which is the reason that this recession has seen spending on outdoor advertising fall much less precipitously than spending on other media.

But just as the bucolic past of hand-painted billboards and Burma Shave signs has been displaced by digital billboards and supergraphic building wraps, the present will give way to something likely to be bigger, brighter, more insistent, more difficult to ignore. As the writer Evan S. Connell said in his brilliant historical disquisition, The White Lantern, ”The ultimate question, though, toward which all inquiries bend, and which carries a hint of menace, is not where or when or why we came to be as we are, but how the future will unfold.”

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Will I Be Pretty? Will I Be Rich?

Ban Billboard Blight out in LA has always provided interesting content. They follow many issues, but my favorites are often their deep interrogation of the back door dealings between outdoor advertising companies and city government. This recent post shows the extent to which the LA city government may talk a big game to the people, but owe those they are "fighting" more than they let on.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Inflatable Supergraphics: Part of McDonalds Ad Blitz for Upscale Coffee Drinks

VIA Ban Billboard Blight
The crew was out in the middle of the night on Overland Ave. in West L.A., installing this five-story ”inflatable” supergraphic sign that’s part of a $100 milllion-plus advertising campaign signaling McDonalds’ foray into the upscale coffee market dominated by Starbucks and a handful of other chains.

The building previously sported a supergraphic ad for designer jeans, which wasn’t removed, but covered up by the faux brick of the McCafe sign. Last year, the company that installed the ads, World Wide Rush, got an injunction from a U.S. District Court Judge barring the city from enforcing its ban on supergraphic ads at the location.

According to an advertising industry publication, McDonalds spent $825 million last year on advertising on TV, radio, the internet and billboards and other outdoor advertising venues. To tell McDonalds (for whatever its worth) what you think of their marketing campaign, click here.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

We Tow Your Ad ~ Your Business Booms

Coastal Ads will take advantage of you at the beach. Seriously?

"That’s exactly right. Using a brand new, large-format floating billboard, Coastal Ad’s pulls your message up and down the packed, Ocean City beach-line. Imagine your message slowly passing back and forth on a beautiful summer day, in front of thousands and thousands of impressionable beach goers with money to spend…"

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El Capitan Theater: More Defacement of Historic Hollywood Buildings by Supergraphic Signs

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

The El Capitan Theater on Hollywood Blvd. opened in 1926, and was the site of many star-studded events, including the world premiere of “Citizen Kane” in 1941. It later fell on hard times, but in the late Eighties the Walt Disney Co. and Pacific Theaters teamed up to do a complete restoration, and it has since been the venue for premieres of Disney feature films.

el-capitan-2Before The Supergraphic

The theater, built by the same real estate developer who built the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and the Chinese Theater, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And like the hotel, also a registered historic landmark, the building has been draped with a huge supergraphic sign that obscures much of its architecture.

The owners of the hotel, just down the street from the theater, and the sign company, In Plain Sight Media, recently sued the city seeking the right to keep the unpermitted supergraphic sign in place. More on Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

The owners of the El Capitan theater donated a “conservation easement” to the Los Angeles Conservancy, which is essentially an agreement not to make any exterior modifications to the building that don’t meet historic preservation standards. This easement is considered a charitable donation, and is typically used by owners of historic properties to claim significant tax deductions.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Star Trek 2009, Mannywood, The Sims 3: What Happens When Big Advertising Budgets Collide With L.A.’s Moratorium on Supergraphic Signs?

I'm sorry I have not been posting as frequently or with as much fervor as usual, but I promise it is for a good reason. Ban Billboard Blight never fails to present interesting and provocative content and I fall back on their amazing site in this time of need. Enjoy

Branding the Dodgers’ $25 million/year outfielder Manny Ramirez is big business. Even bigger is advertising the latest version of The Sims computer game, which has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. And perhaps biggest of all is the 11th installment of the Star Trek movie series, now beginning a promotional blitz leading up to its June, 2009 opening. So it’s hardly suprising that supergraphic signs for these products are appearing on the sides of buildings around the city, even though a moratorium on such signs has been in place since late last year.


3000 Robertson Blvd.

One of The Sims 3 supergraphics went up last week on a building at 3000 Robertson Blvd., where earlier this year the city cited an illegal supergraphic for the “Watchmen” movie. Another ad for the computer game went up at 6464 Sunset Blvd., where prior supergraphics had been cited for violating city codes. Those citations were challenged in a lawsuit against the city, but last summer a federal court judge ruled that the city could legally enforce its regulations at that location.


Crew Putting Up SIMS Supergraphic at 6464 Sunset Blvd. on March 28

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

What Invites, and What Alienates Us in Our Shared Public Spaces

The following quote comes from Ban Billboard Blight's response to "a response by Stuart Magruder to a March 26 article in the L.A. Times titled 'L.A.’s Great Signage Debate' by architectural critic Christopher Hawthorne." Amazing. It also happens to be an eloquent summary of the difference between place signage and advertising, sometimes referred to as first party signage and third party signage.
"The more insidious mistake that Mr. Hawthorne makes is his assessment of what is and what is not advertising. He rolls into one category the “thrillingly tall billboards…on the Sunset Strip” with the Hollywood sign, the LAX sign, the address numbers on the Caltrans building, and several others. Unfortunately, only the fist example - the billboards on Sunset Strip - is advertising; the rest are place signs, not advertising. The difference between billboards and place signs is crucial. The first and most obvious difference: place signs are about the place they adorn. They refer to themselves or to the building that they are on. The best ones, such as the Hollywood sign (which started its life as a billboard for “Hollywoodland” but now designates the place both physically and culturally), are landmarks, helping us get around the city and understand where we are. Billboard advertising is just the opposite. It is placeless; it disorients. There is no connection to what is advertised and where the billboard is located. Billboards make us lose our way in the city as the same product is advertised all over."
Advocates of advertising's removal from public space do not wish for an austere environment, free from anything but boring brick walls and sheer facades. In fact the opposite is often true. It is the selfish nature of advertising's use of public space that is at the heart of our complaint. Instead we advocate the removal of the selfish with replacement by the personal, individual, and inherently altruistic acts of peoples invested in their space for reasons other than profit. Personal interaction with public space often leads to moments of grand visual elegance, teeming with life affirming qualities that stand out against the background of the city. Unlike a billboard whose advertising content we shrink away from, public use of public space is revelatory and engrossing.

The above image by WK Interact once created a physical place in the city that truly inspired me. It was replaced some years after its creation by an advertisement and the entire corner lost it's identity.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Tackling Illegal Signage in the Digital Age

La has a moratorium on digital and supergraphic signs, which means any signage that goes up that wasn't there yesterday is illegal. This makes it very easy for residents to help spot these eyesores and report them to the city. The fact that no authority needs to determine the new signs illegality allows the city attorney's office to act immediately. In fact, the city attorney's office has setup a website where residents can report illegal signs directly to them, and skip over any red tape, or other offices which might slow down the process of serving these law breakers.

Despite there being no similar moratorium in New York, a web form which allowed residents to report illegal signage would be very helpful here as well. Often when I call in violations to the DOB through 311, my description of the billboard is recorded incorrectly and or I have an image I would like to include. In an effort to alleviate the burden the Sign Enforcement Unit has, web forms with image attachments would allow the team to determine some billboards legality without leaving the office.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

So Where Are Those Sign Districts People Are Talking About? Look Here

I have found Google Maps to be an amazing tool for a number of things. The ability to create your own map is one of the best features, and Ban Billboard Blight has put that feature to good use, visualizing for the public the proposed LA sign districts.

The 20 areas of the city eligible for sign districts were included in an attachment to the city planning department’s report on the new sign ordinance approved by

the L.A. City Planning Commission March 26. Unfortunately, all but a few of the major streets were unlabeled, so residents of the area had a hard time telling how they might be affected. So we’ve created a Google map showing all the streets in the areas eligible for sign districts. Just click on the names and zoom in as close as necessary. [For anyone unfamiliar with Google maps, they can be viewed as street maps, or satellite images with street names. Just click above the map on "maps" or "satellite--show labels."]

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Midtown Crossing Developer: Either Approve a Sign District To Allow Supergraphic Billboards, or the Project Will Remain a Dusty Hole in the Ground

Developers, landlords, and outdoor advertising agencies alike, are often clear about one thing; the city would cease to operate in the same way and with the same comforts we are all used to if outdoor advertising was banned and the revenues it brings were lost. The funny thing is I think that this is the same point people who are fighting the spread of urban blight are trying to make. The problem is developers and landlords, advertising companies and those who have a stake in the profits reaped by obliterating our public conscience with fantasies of things we don't need, don't get that we don't want the stupid shopping center to begin with. If the building and the shops contained within cannot support themselves without creating false desire for the actual products sold within the structure through giant supergraphic advertising, then it holds nothing of necessity and should not be considered a viable business venture.

Via Ban Billboard Blight

Midtown Crossing Site

A representative of CIM Group, the developer of the Midtown Crossing shopping center, told a neighborhood council committee last week that the project can’t be built without including 11 large supergraphic billboards. CIM vice president Philip Freidl told the Mid-City Neighborhood Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee that the company originally purchased the property with the expectation that the city would approve a special sign district to allow off-site advertising that is otherwise prohibited by the city sign code.

The 11 large billboards arrayed around the shopping center would face Pico and Venice Blvds., and advertise products and services other than those sold on the premises. Graphic displays brought to the meeting by Friedl and an assistant showed 14 such billboards, including one digital, but he said that the number has since been reduced in response to community concerns about the impact on surrounding residential neighborhoods. Friedl said that the project won’t pencil out without the revenue from the supergraphic signs, which can earn up to $50,000 a month for property owners in high-traffic locations.

CIM Group was the subject of a recent Los Angeles Times article exposing the fact that it has allowed illegal supergraphic signs on some of its properties. At a meeting last week, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency board expressed dismay at this disclosure, and some commissioners questioned whether the city should continue to do business with the company which has received city subsidies for several projects, including more than $14 million for Midtown Crossing.

The initial public hearing by the city planning department on the company’s application for a sign district is scheduled for April 6. A new city sign ordinance, which would not allow a sign district such as the one proposed for Midtown Crossing, is scheduled to be voted on by the City Planning Commission March 18. However, the new ordinance contains a provision that “grandfathers” all seven sign district applications currently pending in the planning department, allowing them to go forward under current, less restrictive criteria.

CIM Group is a major property owner and developer in Hollywood and downtown L.A., and has developed projects or has projects underway in other cities, including Santa Monica, Pasadena, Anaheim, and San Jose. None of those cities allow billboards or other forms of off-site advertising.

According to City Ethics Commission reports, the firm spent almost $1.3 million lobbying city agencies on behalf of its projects in the past five years. In addition, persons listed as CIM group executives and employees have contributed $54,000 to city election campaigns since the 2001 election. The major recipients of this largesse have been Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, $12,000, Councilmember Jan Perry, $3,000, and Councilmember and City Attorney candidate Jack Weiss, $2,250.

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Los Angeles residents take inventory of billboards

VIA LA Times

Judy Riha conducts a billboard count along a roughly two-mile stretch in City Council District 10. The event was organized by the Pico Neighborhood Council and the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight.
As part of a neighborhood plan to curb the growing number, a group in the Mid-City area counts and records what it sees in hopes of ridding the streets of signs posted illegally.
By Esmeralda Bermudez
January 11, 2009
On a sunny morning when many Angelenos flocked to parks and beaches, Judy Riha hit a busy, noisy commercial stretch of La Cienega Boulevard on a hunt for illegal billboards.

She stopped every few feet Saturday -- nine times within a two-block stretch -- to count and take note of ads large and small selling cigarettes, energy drinks, movies and retirement plans."They're holding the city hostage," she said, pointing to the ads, at the start of the 2 1/2 -mile stretch she was assigned to canvass as part of a neighborhood plan to curb the growing number of signs popping up in City Council District 10. The district includes Wilshire Vista, Mid-City and SouthRobertson.

The move comes as the city tries to grapple with complaints from residents and a host of legal challenges brought by billboard companies.

A three-month sign moratorium took effect Dec. 26 to give the city time to draft new laws regulating their quantity, size, location and brightness. A two-year statewide moratorium targeting electronic billboards was proposed Friday in Sacramento.

In Los Angeles, signs without permits have continued to sprout despite the local ban, according to city lawyers.
Some billboard companies have argued that the city is violating their 1st Amendment right to free speech and favoring some companies over others. One state legislator worries that limiting electronic billboards could worsen an already sagging economy.

The issue has turned residents like Riha, who works in the entertainment industry, into watchdogs as they fan out across corridors, creating a record of signs they see on poles, storefronts and high-rises.

With a clipboard in hand, she set out with about 20 residents to take inventory of billboards along Pico and Wilshire boulevards and other strips. They wrote down sizes, addresses and identification numbers to submit to the city at the end of the month.

"We're stepping out -- some with their partners, some with strollers -- and making a day out of it," she said, standing on the corner of Venice Boulevard and La Cienega with a 360-degree view of eight billboards, some digitized. "People like us are going to save this city."

The event was organized by the Pico Neighborhood Council and the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight.

"We want the city to compare what we found against their database and figure out which ones are illegal," said Josh Pretsky, a resident of Faircrest Heights and coordinator of the event.

He said he expected residents to find about 600 signs. It is unclear how many are illegal. In a separate inventory in Council District 11 late last year, residents counted nearly 500 signs in areas including Brentwood and Pacific Palisades.

A 35-year resident of the Fairfax area, Ron Smith, 69, decided to get involved.

"I've started noticing more and more signs as I'm driving," he said. "It can be blinding sometimes."

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Sign Company Charged With Criminal Violations Wants City Held in Contempt of Court

Since when do we allow the outdoor advertising industry to set the rules? The sad part about this post from Ban Billboard Blight is that this isn't even really about fire safety. The myriad other reasons residents of the city have provided for not wanting gigantic consumer messages broadcast over their horizons have gone unheard. This is about the citizens demanding outdoor advertising be controlled and being dismissed at all levels. The fact that they are able to use fire safety as a reason to warrant removing this billboard, and even that is incapable of bringing this supergraphic down, is testament to LA's inability to control its outdoor advertising industry. Cities are not about making money, they are not audience for commercial messages. Cities are about the people who occupy them, and the health of all those individuals. If the residents feel threatened, overwhelmed, or are upset with aspects of that cities organization, they have the right to demand its correction.

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

The Pennsylvania company charged with criminal violations of building and fire codes for covering windows of a West L.A. office building with a huge supergraphic advertising sign has asked a federal judge to hold the city in contempt of court. The company, World Wide Rush, claims that a 2008 injunction barring the city from forcing the removal of a supergraphic from a blank wall of the building also precludes any action against the second, much larger supergraphic that city officials say presents a hazard to the tenants in the event of a fire.

The company claims that its ”business and its business relationship will be irreparably damaged” if the city proceeds with prosecution. The injunction granted last summer barred the city from forcing World Wide Rush to remove a multi-story supergraphic ad for a Fox TV program affixed to one end of the 5-story office building at 10801 National Blvd. The judge in the case ruled that the city couldn’t ban the ad because it had allowed legal exceptions for similar supergraphics in special sign districts and specific plan areas in Hollywood and downtown.

In January of this year, a second supergraphic went up, this one stretching across all the windows on the longer wall of the building. When an order to take it down was ignored, the city attorney filed multiple criminal charges against World Wide Rush and the building owner.

The company is seeking the contempt of court order on the grounds that the injunction applied to the original supergraphic on the blank wall also precludes the city from taking any action to force removal of the supergraphic signs covering the building’s windows. The injunction states that the city cannot enforce its ban on “off-site” advertising signs at the address, but adds that “The City may inspect and verify Plaintiffs’ signs to ensure that they have been constructed according to applicable code provisions to ensure the safe construction of signs.”

In affadavits filed with the court, the company claims that the supergraphic sign meets the city’s standards for fireproof materials. The company also claims that no office tenants are put at risk by the material covering windows because the windows do not open. However, fire officials have said that firefighters might need to break through fixed windows to rescue people, or allow smoke to escape, and that the sign material could pose a hazard by impeding them.

The criminal complaints against World Wide Rush and the building owners are scheduled for hearing in L.A. County Superior Court
on Feb. 26.

For a building tenant’s point of view, check out the blog: 10801takesigndown. For more background, go here.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Questions for L.A. City Candidates: Where Do You Stand On Billboard & Outdoor Advertising Issues?

Billboard and outdoor advertising activism takes many forms. Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight is by far the most interesting group I know of legally defending the city of Los Angeles from what has become an epidemic of outdoor signage and supergraphics.

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

Where do the 37 candidates for city offices in the March 3 primary election stand on billboard and outdoor advertising issues? We’ve submitted the following list of questions to the candidates for Mayor, City Attorney, Controller, and eight City Council seats. Check back before the election to see answers.

1. Do you consider the visual landscape of the city to be a public resource that should be managed to protect scenic vistas, architecture, and limit the exposure of citizens to outdoor advertisements for goods and services. If not, why?

2. Many cities in the country, including a number in the Los Angeles Metropolitan area, have banned off-site advertising signs (those advertising goods and services not available on that premises) without allowing any exceptions. Do you believe this kind of complete ban is desirable in Los Angeles? If not, why? If yes, how would you help achieve it?

3. In 2002, the City Council unanimously adopted a ban on off-site advertising signs, with exceptions allowed for sign supplemental use districts, specific plans, and approved development agreements. In 2008, a federal court judge enjoined the city from enforcing the off-site sign ban against numerous “supergraphic” signs covering entire walls of buildings, ruling that the exceptions give the city too much discretion to forbid signs at some locations and allow them at others. In order to stop the proliferation of these and other types of off-site advertising signs throughout the city, would you support making the ban enforceable by eliminating the three exceptions? If not, why?

4. Outside of downtown, most of the city’s commercial areas are composed of streets closely bordered by apartment houses and single-family homes. What measures would you support to protect residents in those apartments and homes from light trespass and views of billboards, supergraphic signs, and other commercial advertising located on adjacent commercial properties?

5. Opponents of digital signage have cited light pollution, excessive energy usage, and potentially negative effects on traffic and pedestrian safety as reasons to prohibit these signs. Do you support the ban on digital signage proposed in the sign code revisions now being considered by the City Planning Commission? If not, why?

6. Digital billboards have generated many complaints from residents affected in their homes and apartments by the intensity and changing levels of the light. There are approximately 100 digital billboards in the city now, but 877 have been permitted by terms of a 2006 lawsuit settlement. Do you favor legal action to stop further conversion of conventional billboards to digital, and the adoption of measures to mitigate the negative effects of the existing digital billboards on residential neighborhoods? If not, why?

7. Developers and architects are increasingly designing large-scale billboards and supergraphic signs into their commercial and mixed-use projects, claiming that the advertising revenue from these signs is needed in order to make the projects financially feasible. Do you think this a valid reason to approve amounts and types of signage not otherwise allowed by the city sign code?

8. It has been estimated that as many as a third of the billboards and other off-site advertising signs in the city have been erected without permits, or modified illegally. Do you support an increase in penalties sufficient to serve as a real deterrent to companies illegally putting up advertising signs, as well as measures to allow the city to recover a portion of the revenue earned by the sign companies and property owners during the time the sign was illegally posted?

9. Has your campaign accepted contributions from billboard and outdoor advertising companies or lobbyists and law firms representing sign and other companies seeking signage entitlements beyond that permitted by code? If your campaign has accepted contributions from billboard or outdoor advertising companies or lobbyists and law firms representing these interests, how can you assure the public that your position will not be influenced those contributions?

Go here for a list of candidates, many with contact information and summary of positions on varied issues. Scroll down to the City of Los Angeles. Tell them you want answers to the above questions and/or ask your own questions about signage issues.

Posted under Billboards, L.A. City Government

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Billboard Blight: A Gallery Of Shame

People have been commenting that removing outdoor advertising from the public environment would result in a huge loss of jobs for the city, something we can't afford right now. In the short term this is true, but reading a post on Ban Billboard Blight reminded me that a healthy city is far more important than a few short term jobs. In response to the potential job loss, BBB writes.

"Perhaps the question to ask these companies is what they do to harm the visual landscape of the city, and how this makes it a less desirable place to live and do business, and what that means for jobs and the economy"

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

At last week’s City Planning Commission hearing on proposed revisions to the city’s sign ordinance, representatives and lobbyists representing behemoth corporations like Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor argued that stricter regulations
on outdoor signage would harm the city’s economy and result in the loss of jobs, although they offered no facts or figures to support these assertions. Perhaps the question to ask these companies is what they do to harm the visual landscape of the city, and how this makes it a less desirable place to live and do business, and what that means for jobs and the economy.The billboards in the photos belong to Clear Channel, CBS Outdoor, and Lamar Outdoor (formerly Vista Media). Want to let them know what you think? Send an e-mail to the following:

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Words Matter: How Redefining “Billboard” Helps Sign Companies and Developers Bring Us More Outdoor Advertising

VIA Ban Billboard Blight

A flat surface (as of a panel, wall, or fence) on which bills are posted. Specifically, a large panel designed to carry outdoor advertising. This is the definition of “Billboard” from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. Other dictionary definitions vary slightly, but the central idea is the same, that a billboard is a surface or panel upon which outdoor advertising is placed.

Contrast that with the city planning department’s latest definition of billboard as “Any sign structure that accommodates a sign larger than 40 square feet that is erected or affixed to one or more poles, columns or posts, or is attached to a building or structure, but excluding an Integral Electronic Display Sign, Supergraphic Sign or Wall Sign.”

Where does this definition come from? The word billboard doesn’t even appear in the L.A. municipal sign code, which only distinguishes between on-site and off-site signs (ones advertising goods and services available on the premises versus those advertising goods and services sold elsewhere) and defines specific types of signs, such as pole signs, monument signs, ledge signs, and so forth.

Do we really care about this parsing of definitions? We ought to, because limiting the definition of billboard to exclude such things as supergraphic signs, digital signs, and wall signs is allowing developers to claim a reduction in “billboards” at the same time they seek entitlements for enormous amounts of new advertising signage. For instance, a lobbyist speaking on behalf of the Figueroa and Olympic Sign District last month told the city planning commission that adoption would actually result in billboard “reduction.” He was able to make this claim because some of the conventional variety on poles would be removed to make way for development, even though the proposed signage in the district would total almost 50,000 square feet.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

What Ban? What Moratorium? New Billboards Go Up Alongside Downtown Freeway

Just another case of outdoor advertising companies doing what they want in our public space. If they can so blatantly disregard the law I don't see why I can't do the same thing. the next post will be a response.

As an early Christmas present to the city, a Los Angeles company has put up three full-sized, double-sided billboards alongside the 110 freeway downtown.

Coming on the heels of the city council passage of a three-month moratorium on approvals of new billboards, the structures looming some sixty feet high were not permitted or inspected by the Department of Building and Safety, and were apparently erected over a single weekend.

The billboards bear no company name, but are identical to a billboard put up the same area last year by L.A. Outdoor Advertising, also without any required permits or inspections. That billboard was ordered removed, and at an appeal hearing, Andrew Adelman, head of Building and Safety, said it was the most blatant case of disregarding city codes he had seen in his years with the department.

Billboard Illegally Erected Alongside 110 Freeway Last Year

Billboard Illegally Erected Alongside 110 Freeway Last Year

The company subsequently filed a lawsuit against the city, challenging the constitutionality of its ban on new billboards. Keith Stephens, president of the company, was interviewed on KCET’s recent “Billboard Confidential” and claimed that the city was unfairly discriminating against his company because it had allowed larger companies to put up new billboards and supergraphic signs in special Sign Supplemental Use Districts and as part of community redevelopment agreements.

The multi-ton billboard structures would normally require the submission of structural drawings and calculations, and the foundations for the supporting columns would be inspected for proper depth and steel reinforcement before any concrete was placed. One of the billboards, at 11th and Blaine Streets, appears to be no more than 20 feet from the edge of the freeway.

One of the billboards, at the site of the Plumbers Union Local 78 on James Woods Blvd., is displaying advertising, but the other two have not yet been put into service.

New Billboard Structure

New Freeway Billboard Structure

New Freeway Billboard Awaiting Ad

New Freeway Billboard Awaiting Ad

Posted under Billboards, Freeway Billboards

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Monday, November 17, 2008

City Will Try To Untangle Public Art Murals From Billboard Legal Battles

Via Ban Billboard Blight

Murals have long been an important part of visual landscape of Los Angeles, particularly in their illustration of the city’s cultural and political history. Unfortunately, murals on private property have been caught up in the recent legal battles between the city and the outdoor advertising industry, which has argued that the city cannot enforce its sign ordinance, including the 2002 ban on new billboards and other forms of “off-site” commercial advertising, if it doesn’t apply the same enforcement to public art murals. As a result, the city has been forced to cite owners of properties with murals for violation of the ban.

But now the city Planning Department has proposed a way to allow these murals, and a joint committee will be discussing the proposal this coming Wednesday, Nov. 19. This proposal essentially allows private property owners to donate an “art easement” to the city for a wall with an existing or proposed mural, thus turning that piece of the property into a public space exempt from the city sign ordinance.

Anyone interested in this issue should plan to attend the hearing and/or send comments to the committee members. See the committee agenda and planning department report here.

Posted under Billboards, L.A. City Government, Supergraphics

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Volunteer Billboard Inventory in Council District 11: We’ve Got the Results

This is the kind of community involvement that is needed to even begin to take on and disarm the outdoor advertising industry. I applaud those who volunteered their time and efforts on this project. As one of the comments to this post stated, "We now have something measurable to take to our Neighborhood Councils, Neighborhood associations, the CRA, Planning Commission and to our City Council members." One of the major problems fighting illegal signage is the lack of public awareness and veil of secrecy surrounding the illegality of so much of outdoor advertising.

It seems LA has been over saturated by outdoor advertising, and is seeing a strong community response. A recent New York Times article speaks to the outrage that prompts the kind reaction we are seeing come out of that city. Tensions are high enough to move forward a proposed citywide block-by-block survey and inspection of the estimated 10,000 billboards beginning February 1st. Ban Billboard Blight is skeptical whether or not this will happen "because an assistant City Attorney has said that he expects billboard companies to go to court to challenge whatever fee the city decides to levy to pay for the program."

Via Ban Billboard Blight

Beginning a week ago, more than 30 volunteers have been going through the streets of L.A. City Council District 11 and cataloging billboards. Volunteers Catalog Billboards in City Council District
Forms Used For Billboard Inventory

Forms Used For Billboard Inventory

The district, represented by Councilman Bill Rosendahl, runs from the 405 freeway west to the ocean, and includes Brentwood and Pacific Palisades on the north, and LAX on the south. Here’s what they found:

  • Total Number of Billboards: 563
  • Number of Digital (Electronic) Billboards: 17 (a number that may be increasing as you read this)

And what is the most billboard-infested street in the district? The clear winner is Lincoln Blvd. which runs from the Santa Monica border south through Westchester, with a total of 84 billboards. Here are the other streets that qualify for the billboard Hall of Shame.

  • Santa Monica Blvd. 61
  • Pico Blvd. 44
  • Wilshire Blvd. 32
  • Sepulveda Blvd. 28
  • Century Blvd. 28
  • Olympic Blvd. 24

And what company owns most of these signs? No surprise that two of the largest outdoor advertisers in the country take that prize Here are the numbers for the five companies with the largest number of billboards.

  • Clear Channel 143
  • CBS Outdoor 136
  • Vista Media 49
  • Regency Outdoor 47
  • Fuel Outdoor 43

There were a total of 34 billboards that had no identification, although the city’s sign ordinance requires all off-site signs to be clearly labeled with the name of the sign owner, the city permit number, and other information.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Long-Awaited Citywide Billboard Inspections to Begin in February: But Will Billboard Companies Sue to Stop It?

Wouldn't it be nice to know definitively how many billboards exist in New York and whether or not they are legal? Los Angeles is proposing to do such a thing and pass the cost on to the outdoor advertising companies. This kind of transparency is unheard of in the world of outdoor advertising, something I found out first hand when attempting to get numbers on subway, phone kiosk and other outdoor advertisements in NYC. This kind of research or public information is exactly what is needed to call to arms the average individual who doesn't contemplate how overwhelming outdoor advertising is. Upon receipt of this information I would expect the average citizen to have a much stronger, and visceral reaction to public advertising in general.

Via Ban Billboard Blight

Almost seven years after the L.A. City Council voted to conduct a block-by-block survey and inspection of the estimated 10,000 billboards in city, the Department and Building and Safety is proposing to start the program on Feb. 1 next year. Whether or not this actually happens is open to question, though, because an assistant City Attorney has said that he expects billboard companies to go to court to challenge whatever fee the city decides to levy to pay for the program.

And what is that fee the deep-pocketed billboard companies might find so onerous? The building department proposes to charge $186 per billboard structure for a three-year inspection period. This would pay for three field inspectors to conduct the actual survey and enter the information into a billboard database, plus a supervising inspector and a clerk. The information gathered would be compared to permit documents submitted by the billboard companies, and any billboards erected or altered illegally would be ordered taken down or brought into compliance with their permits.

The four companies that sued in 2002 to stop the program–Clear Channel, CBS Outdoor, Regency Outdoor, and Vista Media–have already agreed to the fee in a 2006 lawsuit settlement. According to inventories submitted by the city, the four companies own 6,581 signs, which leaves an estimated 3,500 signs owned by other companies that would be covered by the latest proposal.

What will the inspectors actually be doing in the field, to complete a process estimated to take 2.7 years? According to Frank Bush, chief inspector of the Code Enforcement Bureau, inspectors will be “measuring the distance from the property lines to the sign structure; setting up a measuring device to determine the height and size of the sign; actually measuring the height and size of each structure; logging the measurements; comparing the actual measurements against information on a permit or documentation supplied by the sign company; and inspecting each sign structure in terms of code compliance for structural safety and adequacy of the electrical installations for lighted signs.”

What if billboard companies fail to provide copies of their permits? In that case the department will research its own records, for which it will bump the fee for the three-year inspection period to $342. Why so much for a minor task? The answer, apparent to anyone who has attempted on their own to comb through records in search of billboard permit information, is that it’s not minor at all, but a daunting, often frustrating job.

Bush says as much in a detailed memo laying out the proposed terms of the inspection program:

“Locating relevant permits is a tedious and time-consuming process. Not all billboards have been assigned their own separate and distinct address. Some billboards have been assigned a separate address based upon historical practices for the convenience of the Department of Water and Power and other purposes to allow for billing and a dedicated electrical meter to the billboard company. Many other billboards have permits indexed to the address of the property on which they were initially constructed, which address often changed over time as areas developed and lots were split. Many others have permits indexed to a commercial development address which includes dozens and possibly hundreds of permits in cases where the billboard is constructed upon a large commercial property or mini-shopping center. Thus, to locate a billboard permit LADBS must frequently search permits over a range of addresses.

“To view actual permits a BMI [note: inspector] must physically pull the corresponding microfilm reels, search the reel for the permit desired and review the permit to determine whether it relates to the sign structure in question. Assuming that the correct permit is located, the information on the permit (type of sign, dimensions, single or double face, orientation, sign location and plot plan) must be interpreted. Often, the information is handwritten and the record of poor quality. This information can now be compared with the field conditions and any differences noted. These decisions must be made in order to decide if violations exist and whether to issue any enforcement orders for code violations.”

The fees and related approvals for hiring inspectors now go to the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee and then to the full City Council. Will this program which was a critical adjunct to the city’s 2002 ban on new billboards actually get underway in February? Will the billboard companies sue and tie it up in court for another half dozen years, in the meantime putting up digital billboards and enjoying other concessions handed them by the 2006 lawsuit settlement?

Stay tuned.

Read the Sign Inspection and Fee Proposal

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Supergraphic Signs: Are They Fire Safety Hazards? Councilman Says “Yes”

The language used by many anti billboard and general advertising blight advocates is troubling to me. I am well aware of the fact that in our culture a legal battle is often more immediately effective in the removal of outdoor advertising than a discussion about the negative consequences, to ourselves, and our city environment. The problem is these efforts remove outdoor advertising only to see it re-posted in the same location at a later time, or moved to another place entirely. In order to fully reform our city space to function for those people who live in that space, residents must understand their relationship to the city public and what that space should offer them. I help produce the illegal billboards website, which locates un-permitted illegal signage in New York, but as far as I'm concerned all outdoor advertising is illegal.

Via Ban Billboard Blight

Almost a year ago, city building inspectors raised this issue at a meeting of the Board of Building and Safety Commissioners.

These huge signs wrapped over the entire sides of buildings and covering windows could impede firefighters in an emergency, they said. And because almost all the signs have been put up without permits or inspections, they added, there isn’t any way to know if the material or manner of installation meets fire safety standards.

Now, City Councilman Jack Weiss wants the fire department to conduct sweeps to identify hazardous supergraphic signs, and get them immediately removed. At a press conference yesterday on Wilshire Blvd. with a huge supergraphic as a backdrop, Weiss also said he would introduce an ordinance to ban unsafe materials and installations.

“Supergraphics are going up all around the City and the advertising they carry has blocked views and architecture, but today we know that some of these supergraphics also are blocking escape routes and posing a safety hazard for people inside,” Weiss said.

A Fire Department official estimated that there are 90-100 such signs now installed on buildings throughout the city. Because these signs fall under the city’s 2002 ban on new off-site advertising signs, a number have been cited by building inspectors, but one sign company, World Wide Rush, sued the city and this past summer obtained a federal court injunction against enforcement of the ban.

The city council just this week received a communication from City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo regarding a closed-door meeting for a “settlement discussion” in that case. By now, everyone knows that the settlement Delgadillo negotiated with Clear Channel and other billboard companies in 2006 has turned out to be disastrous for the city, so stay tuned.

Weiss Press Release

KABC-TV video

World Wide Rush v. City of Los Angeles.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Question For AIA Panel: Is It Time to Ban Billboards?

This is the type of open discussion needed about outdoor advertising in general. Thanks to Ban Billboard Blight for their post.

Are billboards incompatible with the practice of architecture, which aims–theoretically, at least– to enhance the visual environment of the city? Or should outdoor advertising be integrated into architecture, thus providing financial benefits that will make projects more feasible? These and other questions will be put to a panel at a discussion entitled “Is It Time To Ban Billboards?”, sponsored by the urban design committee of the L.A. Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) on Nov. 12. Panelists will include anti-blight activists, as well as lobbyists for developers who want to include significant advertising signage in their projects.

When: Wed., Nov. 12, 7-9 p.m

Where: AIA Los Angeles
3780 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 800
Los Angeles, CA 90010

Kevin E. Fry - President, Scenic America
Dennis Hathaway - President, The Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight
Con Howe - Managing Director of The CityView Los Angeles Fund and Former Director of Planning of the City of Los Angeles
Craig Lawson - President, Craig Lawson & Co., LLC
Jeff McConnell - Vice President, Arnie Berghoff & Associates

Moderator: John Kaliski, AIA - Principal, URBAN STUDIO

The public is invited, but space is limited, so anyone wanting to attend should RSVP to

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

The View From Inside the Ad-Wrapped Bus

VIA Ban Billboard Blight
Ever wonder what it’s like to look out the window of one of those buses shrink-wrapped in advertising? This photo gives a pretty good idea. But maybe it doesn’t matter, because you’ll be glued to the monitor running video ads inside the bus, or mesmerized by the print ads covering most available surfaces. After all, by riding the bus you’ve voluntarily joined a captive audience, haven’t you? And where does it say you have the right to enter a public space without being confronted by a 360-degree assault of messages to buy products and services?

The MTA and other public transit agencies will eagerly tell you that selling public property as ad space is the alternative to higher fares. So why don’t we wrap the MTA headquarters building, which towers above its downtown surroundings and offers a panoramic view of the city? Why shouldn’t MTA executives and board members have the same kind of view as the riders inside the bus?

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