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Billboard Confidential

More Delays For L.A. Sign Ordinance

The committee charged with revising sign regulations in Los Angeles, a city some residents and activists have complained is plagued by "billboard blight," has put off sending its recommendations to the city council.

After nearly four hours of discussion, a special meeting of the Los Angeles Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee adjourned Monday afternoon without producing a sign ordinance to take to the council. This was the fourth in a series of PLUM meetings on the topic this year. The committee had decided to revisit the ordinance after a court ruled that bans on off-site signage are legally defensible.

Off-site signs are those that advertise for a business and are not physically located on the same property.

The draft ordinance discussed at the meeting would have created 16 new sign districts, allowed some projects to be grandfathered in, and established a sign unit in the Department of Building and Safety.

The room was packed on Monday with community members and lobbyists.

Community members spoke out against the “two-up one-down” provision, which the planning department suggested would bring zero net gain in the total number of billboards.

Yet the topic that brought the most heat was the issue of signs in city parks (our investigation here). Activists strongly urged the committee to keep the city's parks free of commercial signage.

John Mukri, general manager of the Parks and Recreation Department, argued he would be fine with signs bearing messages from corporate advertisers such as McDonald's, but only if they were affirmative messages.

Brian Currey, counsel to the mayor, said the city is continuing to look for innovative new revenue sources even as it is forced to reduce services. He urged the committee to keep the options open.

Residents like Steven Sann took time out from their work schedules to implore the city council not to give away public spaces.

Camilla Baklayan spoke not only as a concerned citizen but as a mother of three who didn't want to see billboards or signs in parks.

At the urging of Councilman Krekorian, the panel tried to hash out the language for the ordinance to move it out of committee. They covered issues ranging from allowing Little League banners in parks to creating a sign district for the zoo.

After hours of debate, the committee sent the ordinance back to the city attorney’s office for revised language to include signs in the Los Angeles Zoo, city parks, and in the greater downtown housing area. Panel and audience members alike seemed worn out by the end of the meeting.

“Let’s get this done,” said Councilman Ed Reyes as the committee adjourned for the evening.

The revised ordinance will be brought back to the committee for a fifth time before being sent to City Council. The committee asked the Planning Department and the city attorney's office to expedite a new report but gave no specific deadline.

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