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Is the Tide Turning?

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Last week’s SoCal Connected story on billboards seems to have gotten the attention of our city’s leaders. Today, the Planning and Land Use Management Commission voted to initiate what’s called an “interim control ordinance’ regarding the conversion to digital billboards. In simple terms, the commission voted to draft a report outlining a one-year moratorium on digital billboard conversions. Commission President Jane Usher said, “I’m tired of the city of LA being the doormat for the billboard industry.” It was tough talk I haven’t heard from any city leaders since I started looking into this story.

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Before the planning commission voted to initiate the moratorium, a surprising development occurred. Five or six deputy city attorneys walked into the hearing room and one of them, David Michelson, announced that the city attorney’s office is recommending the city council authorize a six month ban on ALL signs - digital, tradition, even supergraphics. During this six month period, the city attorney’s office would work with city officials to draft yet another set of laws attempting to control the signs of LA. The city council may vote on this next week. It’s a bold move on the city attorney’s part, but many activists who were present seemed to have little hope it would make a difference given the city attorney’s office previous actions on billboard blight. Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight stated, “It’s like asking the fox to design the security system for the hen house.”

I’ve been taken aback by all the billboard-related motions city leaders have introduced in just the last week. There seems to have been a silence on the topic for years, and virtually no discussion of the environmental and safety impacts of these digital billboards. Now, the tide is turning and we’ll see if there really is the political will to clean up the signs of LA. We’ll be watching.

RELATED RESOURCES:

Outdoor Advertising Association of America

The John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising and Marketing History at Duke University

Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight

Scenic America

West LA Online

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