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'Supergraphics' billboard fight goes to court

January 19, 2009 |  3:44 pm

Supergraphic Billboard fights in Los Angeles used to be so simple. You had the outdoor advertising companies on one side, the angry neighborhood types on the other, and in between were the politicians who frequently left the impression that they had no idea what they were doing.

But last week a new and unhappy group reared its head: the office workers who toil inside the buildings that are being covered with new “supergraphics” -- vinyl or plastic images stretched across one side of a building, windows and all.

In the month since the City Council passed a moratorium on outdoor advertising, supergraphics have been going up in Hollywood, the Westside and elsewhere, advertising soft drinks, movies and other products. But in Mid-City, a firm that advises clients on trademark infringement put its foot down, saying a brand-new, 10-story supergraphic violates the terms of its lease and harms its image.

In a lawsuit filed in Superior Court, Recon Research Corp. said its landlord put a supergraphic on the east side of the building without contacting his client, a move that turned the office “from a conservative, prestigious environment to one that is crass and commercial.”

“(Recon) contends that the installation of the supergraphic sign has changed the character of the office property and its outward appearance such as to make it no longer suitable for the purpose for which it was leased, i.e. to provide office space that matched the character and status of (its) clientele,” wrote lawyer Alan Harris.

Recon said the supergraphic went up over the Christmas holiday, the same week the council’s moratorium on outdoor signs went into effect, covering 36 windows between the 8th and 17th floors. The firm’s lawyers are seeking class action status for the case by enlisting other tenants of the building. No word yet from the building’s owner, 6380 Wilshire LLC.

Michael McNeilly, the businessman who created the Statue of Liberty supergraphic image, declined to wade into the dispute. “The property owners have given me permission to put the Statue of Liberty on the wall,” he said. “If they have an issue with the tenant, that’s something they would have to deal with.”

-- David Zahniser

Photo: Karen Tapia-Andersen / Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss, left, hold a press conference in front of an illegal sign on the side of a buiilding which is on the corner of Overland and Pico in Los Angeles.

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