Thursday, January 31, 2002
City Attorney Delgadillo Supports Proposed Billboard Regulations, Offers Advice on Legal Course of Action
By NICK YULICO, Staff Writer
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo came out swinging against the “visual blight” of billboards at the City Council meeting yesterday, pledging support for a proposed ban on new billboards and providing his own measure to lobby the state legislature to change state laws that currently inhibit the regulation of signs by the city.
The council yesterday sent all proposals to regulate billboards to its Planning and Land Use Committee for further review, with the exception of a newly drafted ordinance by Councilman Jack Weiss which will be voted on next week, since it failed to receive enough votes for consideration yesterday.
The proposal by Weiss calls for billboard companies to provide a list of their signs to the city. Inspection certificates would be required on all billboards to ensure their lawfulness, and the city would charge the signs’ owners fees to be used to finance the costs of enforcing a citywide inspection program.
Delgadillo’s proposal is to amend the state law to allow billboard removal without compensation and to allow removal of billboards altered in violation of permit.
This requires state legislation and the council remained divided over whether that was the best solution, since it lies somewhat out of their hands.
State law constrains the city’s regulatory options, Delgadillo said, in that it requires government to compensate billboard companies if their signs are removed and it requires the city to prove a billboard is illegal once its has been up for five years.
The city would have to pay the full market value in order to remove billboards.
“This is costly because the billboard companies claim their signs are worth upwards of $1 million to $10 million each in some cases,” Delgadillo said.
Delgadillo said his proposal could eventually authorize removing all billboards from the city. But it requires a march on Sacramento by Mayor James Hahn and the City Council to lobby the issue.
The billboard issue is extremely hot in the city lately, with lawsuits filed by Delgadillo’s office against Viacom/STI who he alleges erected illegal billboards in the city before the new year.
As well, the City Council has been weighing several measures to regulate billboards but has not yet passed any ordinances.
Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski last week introduced a proposal that prohibits all new billboards in the city, which Delgadillo said he supports.
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas’ proposal, better known as the “freeway swap-out,” trades a portion of existing billboards in neighborhoods for billboards to be placed on sides of freeways. The final draft of it will not be available until March.
While he strongly supports Weiss’ proposal, Delgadillo said, a complete ban on billboards is also necessary.
“I believe that ridding our city of all billboards is the simplest and most effective way to address all of the policy concerns raised by this council,” Delgadillo said. “...I believe we now have the momentum and the public support to finally take back our neighborhoods from the billboard companies.”
Weiss explained why he believed billboards are a “visual blight.”
“People can’t drive through the streets in their neighborhoods anymore without being assaulted with advertising 24 hours a day,” Weiss told the MetNews. “Neighborhoods deserve a little bit of piece of mind.”
According to the Department of Building and Safety, 40 per cent of the approximate 10,000 billboards in the city are illegal—for some a permit was never issued, but for most, they have been illegally altered or enlarged in violation of their permits.
There has been a temporary moratorium on new billboards since December, 2000. The six-month ban was renewed each time after it expired and it is currently up for renewal June, 2002.
The debate over the once strongly supported “freeway swap” ordinance continues to divide the council.
Miscikowski said she thought the council should “kill” it.
Council members Nick Pacheco and Ridley-Thomas both said they were open to the freeway ordinance.
Pacheco said it is the only plan right now that rids poor neighborhoods of existing signs, something both Miscikowski’s and Weiss’ respective notions fail to do.
Members of the public fed up with the growing number of billboards expressed their support for the council’s proposed bans.
Helen Itria Norman, president of the Tarzana Property Owners Association, addressed the council with a call that played on the famous speech of President Kennedy.
“Think not what billboard companies have done for you. Think what they would do to the city if you let them,” Norman said.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company