Wednesday, June 6, 2001
Council Votes 8-3 to Set Parameters for Billboard-Reduction Program
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
After an intense debate the City Council voted yesterday 8-3 to set parameters for a billboard reduction program to remove 15 existing billboards for every new freeway billboard that is built.
The parameters approved by the council would require three of the billboards which must be removed as part of the program will be bulletin size which are the largest size billboards, covering 672 square feet. The remaining 12 billboards to be removed in the exchange program will consist of half 8-sheets and half of 30-sheets.
Through the billboard exchange program 7,572 square feet of billboards would be demolished.
Councilman Mike Feuer, an ardent critic of billboards, argued against passing the motion in favor of seeking out and eliminating illegal billboards before entering into a billboard exchange program.
“We are doing this out of sequence,” Feuer said. “If we think there are illegal billboards which exist, shouldn’t we first get rid of those before we go on?”
Feuer also accused the council of “playing the billboard company’s game” by being willing to accept a motion that allows the billboard companies to pre-select the billboards to be removed, illegal or not.
Feuer, Councilman Nick Pacheco, and Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski voted not to pass the motion.
Pacheco said that while he was not opposed to the motion, he was not ready to vote on the matter yesterday, citing the fact that council district nine, where a lot of billboards will be affected, was not represented in the discussion due to the absence of the Councilwoman Rita Walters.
Originally authored by Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, the motion was significantly amended during the debate causing Miscikowski to ask to continue the matter for two weeks. It was defeated by just one vote.
“I just don’t believe we should continue until we really know what we have in hand,” Miscikowski said. “Let’s do this with clarity first.”
With Ridley-Thomas urging the council to come to a decision at yesterday’s meeting, discussion on the issue lasted almost 90 minutes.
Councilman Hal Bernson stressed the need for all billboards to meet standard landscaping requirements set out by the city while Councilman Joel Wachs and Councilman Mike Hernandez amended the motion to require that billboard companies produce valid permits and be in compliance with the limits of the permit for all its billboards before the company be allowed to participate in the billboard exchange program.
A recommendation to the Department of Building and Safety for a yearly billboard registration fee for all billboards was also added to the motion.
“I believe we have reached a point where we can now move forward,” Ridley-Thomas said during the debate.
An attempt by Feuer to require a traffic safety study be added to the motion failed by two votes.
In addition to the amendments made by council members to the Ridley-Thomas’ motion, the city council’s directions also adopts several recommendations from a substitute motion authored by Miscikowski including a request to the Department of Building and Safety and the city attorney to write official letters requiring all billboard companies operating in Los Angeles to produce valid permits for all of their locations within 60 days.
The city attorney will also draft an ordinance which would require all billboards in the city to display a valid billboard permit.
The announcement of the passed vote meet with boos from the audience of community members who came to the meeting to speak in opposition of the motion.
Wearing stickers that read “Ban Billboard Blight” people from across the city spoke at a public hearing urging council members to adopt Miscikowski’s substitute motion instead of the original motion brought by Ridley-Thomas.
Mar Vista resident Sonia Huppell described the billboard companies as “unscrupulous” and asked the council how could they even think of overturning the city’s 50 year ban on freeway billboards.
Two representatives from billboard companies also spoke during the public hearing session.
Ken Spiker, a lobbyist for Eller Media, Regency, and Vista, expressed disappointment with the vote after the meeting.
“We’re not real happy with it either,” Spiker said of the exchange ratio. “It’s going to be very, very expensive.”
The vote directs the City Attorney to draft ordinances which will then be given to the City Planning Commission to take action on. If the City Planning Commission approves of the ordinances the council needs only eight votes to make them official. If the commission disapproves, the City Council will need 10 votes to overturn it.