L.A. City Council Approves Park-Billboard Deal

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A three-way deal approved Tuesday by the L.A. City Council will bring a wetlands park to south Los Angeles -- and billboards to the 10 Freeway south of downtown. KPCC's Molly Peterson explains the unusual tradeoff.

Molly Peterson: Everyone on the city council likes the idea of turning an underused Metropolitan Transportation Authority yard into a nine acre wetland park at the corner of South Avalon and 54th streets. Councilman Dennis Zine even joked with Jan Perry about her council district's need for green space.

Dennis Zine: So you don't have an overabundance of parks?
Jan Perry: No, not at all.
Zine: Any golf courses?
Perry: No.
Zine: Any Any country clubs?
Perry: We are the second most park poor district in the city.
Perry: In the city.

Peterson: But the transit agency attached a string to the parkland sale. The vote was tied to another item: changing the zoning for some MTA land along the 10 to allow two 76 foot tall billboards. The tradeoff helps the MTA put to rest a seven year old legal dispute with outdoor advertisers over ad space on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Activists told the council that the new billboards, one of which has two digital sides, will make for bad traffic. Councilman Jack Weiss cast the only "no" vote. He said the city didn't need to take sides in the MTA's legal fight.

Jack Weiss: And my feeling is, giving the MTA land to the city for the park, good, building the new park, good, helping that community, good. This giveaway to the billboard companies? Who lost month to month leases? Ridiculous.

Peterson: Some of the sign revenue will go toward making the wetlands park. And billboard opponents say they'll be watching the 10 for accidents, and the city council for approvals of outdoor ads.