Much-delayed LA sign law creeps toward approval

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107152 full

After winding their way through the city's political process for 6 years, new rules governing digital and traditional billboards that could alter the urban landscape are nearing approval.

On Thursday, the City Planning Commission will review portions of the draft ordinance that have been added since 2009, when it sent the measure to the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee, and make a recommendation to the City Council.

The commission's review could be more extensive, however. The measure has been before the planning committee for so long that the commission's membership has turned over. New members appointed by Mayor Eric Garcetti want to see the whole thing, said Tom Rothmann, the city planning official shepherding the measure through committees.

The planning committee in late June sent the remainder of the ordinance to the City Council for approval. It's up to the Council to decide whether to approve parts of the ordinance piecemeal, or to wait for the planning commission to make its recommendation and take up the entire ordinance at one time.

Some of the notable elements:

  • Takedown provision:  For every billboard that goes up, two must come down. Earlier versions of the ordinance have had higher — and lower — takedown ratios.
  • Amnesty: Nearly a thousand billboards went up with no permit on record or were changed after a permit was granted. The ordinance contains a measure that would forgive the billboard companies and let the billboards remain.
  • Grandfathered districts: The proposal would permit dozens of new sign districts if land owners had already applied for them. That waters down the ordinance's language permitting just five new sign districts in the busiest parts of the city.

All this could change with the planning commission review Thursday and in final hearings before the City Council in coming months.

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