Question 1: More digital billboards for Los Angeles?
The revised citywide sign ordinance now being considered by the City Council’s PLUM committee restricts new digital billboards and off-site signs to special sign districts in 22 areas zoned for high-intensity commercial use, such as L.A. Live, parts of Hollywood Blvd., Universal City and others. But the committee wants plans drawn up to allow new digital billboards on commercial streets, freeways, or parcels of public property throughout the city. Do you agree with allowing new digital billboards anywhere, or do you believe they should be restricted to special sign districts in those high-intensity commercial zones?
I believe the city should not expand the locations that digital signs are permitted. Digital signs are broadly impactful on communities across the city, even miles from a sign’s location. I can only imagine allowing new digital signage in cases in which it is openly vetted by impacted communities and strongly supported – not in backroom deals between city council offices and outdoor advertisers.
Question 2: Amnesty for unpermitted and non-compliant billboards? A city survey has shown that there are approximately 1,000 billboards in the city that either lack permits or have been altered in violation of their permits. The PLUM committee is considering legalizing all of them through a billboard “amnesty.” Do you support this, or do you believe that the city should use all means at its disposal to require those billboards to be brought into compliance or taken down?
The city should absolutely enforce its laws, cite unlawful signs, and fight to bring down illegal signs and collect penalties. The city has spent thousands of dollars in court to maintain its current sign laws, including the law that created the survey program. The city should not be cowed by the threat of lawsuits.
Question 3: Rebutting the presumption of legality? The rationale given for the proposed amnesty is that a state law grants a “rebuttable presumption” of legality to billboards that haven’t been cited within five years of being erected or altered. Do you believe the city should make a comprehensive search for evidence to rebut the presumption, including enlisting the help of property owners and other community members who may possess such evidence?
I think the city should work to rebut the presumption – but first the city needs to enforce its laws against illegal signs.
Question 4: Free billboard ads for PLUM committee members? All three PLUM committee members are currently getting, or have gotten in the past, free billboard advertising from companies such Lamar Advertising and CBS Outdoor. Do you believe that this compromises their decisions on sign legislation, such as allowing new digital billboards? If so, what measures should be taken to restore confidence that the committee is acting in the public, as opposed to billboard industry, interest?
PLUM members recusal on this legislation is a bit unrealistic since we’re talking about a citywide law not a specific development project. But the PLUM committee, and the city council in general, can regain the public’s trust by truly debating these issues in the public view. There is nothing more discouraging for interested members of the public than to attend a public committee meeting, voice an opinion, and have the committee act without debate, and with their minds clearly having been made before the public hearing. The big companies have the ear of decision-makers in a way that community members do not have. The public knows this, and it has to change.
Question 5: Should billboards be taxed? Billboard advertising is directed toward a captive audience of motorists and pedestrians using public streets and sidewalks, yet the billboard industry contributes nothing toward the maintenance of that infrastructure. Do you believe the city should levy some kind of tax or fee to ensure that the companies share in the cost of public amenities that make their billboards valuable?
I believe that the bigger issue is whether outdoor advertising should be so pervasive in the city landscape. If less signage is better, it is not worth keeping or growing signs just to raise revenue.
Question 6: Regulating on-site digital signage?
On-site signs for businesses can now be converted to digital without any special permission. Many residents have concerns about such things as change of neighborhood character, traffic safety, and light trespass into homes and apartments. Other cities in the country have passed new digital sign ordinances that regulate such things as size, brightness, hours of operation, duration of message change, spacing, proximity to residential zones, and number of digital signs on a property. Do you believe that the city should adopt such regulations as soon as possible?
Yes, I believe the city should regulate on-site digital signs, and should likely severely restrict them.