LA City Council approves giant digital billboards for Wilshire Grand project

A rendering of the new Wilshire Grand hotel, which will include massive digital billboards on its sides.
A rendering of the new Wilshire Grand hotel, which will include massive digital billboards on its sides.
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The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved a developer’s plans to include bright digital lights on the new Wilshire Grand hotel and an adjacent office tower.

Developer Thomas Properties and Hanjin International plan to replace the Wilshire Grand hotel at Wilshire and Figueroa with a new 45-story hotel and adjacent 65-floor office building.

The $1 billion project is one of the largest ever in downtown Los Angeles.

Over the objections of people concerned about the proliferation of digital billboards, the City Council voted unanimously to allow the developer to include state-of-the-art flashing digital signs on the sides of the skyscrapers.

The first 10 floors of the two buildings will feature advertising, the top floors will feature non-commercial images.

“It is not a billboard. It is art, and I believe it adds more culture," City Councilman Ed Reyes said of the top floors.

Opponents of the plan said the bright signs with rotating images will be an eyesore.

"Each time a digital image shifts, a quiet serene city landscape jolts the citizens of LA into an alert mode," Jan Book of Marina Del Rey said.

“To have a constant excitement all the time is not healthy for our citizens," she added.

Councilwoman Jan Perry, who represents the downtown area, said the signs fit a changing downtown.

"Signage is an important part of downtown’s architectural context and contributes to the city’s skyline," Perry said.

Hungry for the new economic activity, the city’s agreed to provide nearly $80 million in tax credits to the project.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl was the sole member to raise concerns of the digital billboard plan. He said the cash-strapped city should have squeezed a piece of the profit from the highly profitable billboards.

Developers plan to start demolishing the old Wishire Grand hotel in January 2012, and open the new hotel and office tower in 2015.