Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Future of Los Angeles' digital billboards remains in limbo

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The future of digital billboards in the city of Los Angeles remained uncertain Tuesday as the city council asked planning staffers to meet with billboard companies and neighborhood groups to work out a new set of regulations for the signs. 

The staff report is due back in 30 days; however, an ongoing legal dispute between two major billboard companies, CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel Outdoor, and the city of Los Angeles is expected to be heard in court later this month. Councilman Paul Krekorian told his colleagues that the upcoming court date provides a sense of urgency that could push the two sides to find some common ground.

“My hope is that this will be the beginning of a discussion,” Krekorian said. 

His goals for the staff report are to:

  1. Reduce the number of static and digital billboards in the city
  2. Increase revenue to the city
  3. Resolve ongoing legal fights over billboards

There are 100 digital billboards in the city as a result of a 2006 settlement that's the basis of the court challenge. It's not known how much revenue the city could generate by putting a fee on the digital billboards, which earn billboard companies four or five times as much as traditional signage.

During the city council’s public testimony, residents accused the council members of trying to do an end-run around the ongoing legal disputes.

“What will you tell the people in Hollywood and Venice and West L.A. who suffer from light trespassing into their homes?” said Dennis Hathaway with the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight. 

Councilmen Eric Garcetti, Paul Koretz and Tom LaBonge voted against the proposal, arguing that the city should allow the court process to play itself out. 

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