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Web Feature | Government

Behind the Signs: See the Documents

Pinched by a shrinking budget, the board of the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Commission has tried to get creative in order to raise money for city park operations and maintenance. In the process, a showdown ensued between Barry Sanders, president of the Board, and the L.A. City Attorney's office.

Sanders and the commission want to allow sponsors to put up "murals" in city parks. The city attorney has said they are commercial advertisements and violate the city's off-site billboard laws.The following documents show how Sanders and lobbyists from the law firm Latham & Watkins tried to convince city attorney Carmen Trutanich and his staff, along with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's staff and city council members, to carve out an exception to the billboard law for signs in the park. They show how Sanders was eager to move quickly and bend the law in favor of a policy that would give the commission sole authority to decide what signs are appropriate in L.A. City parks.

A Los Angeles Parks Foundation document markets city park spaces — garbage cans, fences, and park benches — to potential sponsors. The foundation notes a benefit to sponsors includes "Maximum exposure and name recognition at some of the busiest and most recognizable parks in the Los Angeles area." See the documents.

Emails from Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Commission President Barry Sanders show him urging lawmakers and the L.A. City Attorney's office to make exceptions to the city's billboard laws. Other emails show the private law firm Latham & Watkins trying to influence the city's sign policy. See the documents.

Read an approved version of the Parks Commission's deal with Warner Bros. to display images of Yogi Bear from the studio's recent movie in three L.A. city parks. See the documents.

Read the City Ethics Commission's letter to the L.A. City Council approving Barry Sanders appointment to the Board of Recreation and Parks Commission, under the condition that Sanders recuse himself from any interests involving the law firm Latham & Watkins, where he still collects a retirement payment. Latham & Watkins is lobbying the L.A. City Council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on the issue of sponsor signs in city parks, but Sanders has said there is no conflict of interest, because the firm is not an adversary in this case. See the documents.

L.A. Parks Foundation Sponsorship Document

L.A. Recreation and Parks Commission Meeting Transcripts and Emails

Approved Deal With Warner Bros.

Barry Sanders Ethics Commission Report

Program Support