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The War Against Supergraphics

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Your personal opinion on "supergraphics"--giant, sometimes building-sized, advertising images--might vary, but Los Angeles' City Council is against them. However, the city's war against these mega-billboards is running into some snags.

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Last week, the L.A. Times reported that:

A federal judge has issued a temporary injunction barring the city of Los Angeles from taking action against unpermitted supergraphics on at least 18 buildings while the case moves ahead in court.

U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins said the SkyTag advertising company submitted evidence stating that its supergraphics, or multistory images, had been erected at each location before Dec. 26, the day a temporary sign ban went into effect.

And though a temporary moratorium on new supergraphics has been in effect since January, Blogdowntown notes that some major city players don't seem to give a hoot:

Despite the fact that new supergraphics have been forbidden in the city of Los Angeles since January, new billboards continue to spring up Downtown, including several featuring Dodgers' slugger Manny Ramirez, who...was suspended fifty games for a drug violation.

Two large banners appeared on the sides of a pair of parking garages on Flower street between 7th and 8th in recent weeks, and in the last few days a new banner was placed on Figueroa between 8th and 9th. Manny-graphics aren't the only ones still emerging. 888 S. Figueroa features a new ad for Chase bank plastered across the windows of its lower floors.

All of this is occurring in spite of the city's moratorium on supergraphics, which it extended this week.....City Council's Planning committee will again take up discussion of a new signage ordinance next week. A major part of those rules will be a mechanism for enforcement, something quite obviously lacking in the city's current implementation.

Back in March, the city Planning Commission passed on to the City Council, as the L.A. Times' blog reported,

a dramatically reworked billboard law that would ban digital billboards in most parts of the city and place new restrictions on supergraphics -- vinyl signs placed on the sides of buildings...Although the measure would still allow the council to create as many as 21 sign districts in neighborhoods such as Encino, Westwood and Boyle Heights, the commission voted to require that for each new sign erected, another one of equal or greater size would have to be taken down in the surrounding area.

The City Council needs to vote on that by June, when the current sign moratorium expires.

It isn't just supergraphics that concern the city--even regular billboards and their proliferation have long been a concern of city government. The Daily News reported in April on how city volunteers were able to create a quicker and more thorough inventory of the billboards in L.A. than the city has managed to do in the nine years since a City Council directive ordered such an inventory.

Back in 1999, Virginia Postrel, former editor of Reason magazine (where I work) and prominent L.A.-based public intellectual, wondered what was so bad about supergraphics anyway and questioned the value of "esthetic police."

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

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