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L.A. planning commission pondering billboard law over lunch [UPDATED]

The Los Angeles Planning Commission is, in a word, stuck.

For more than four hours, the nine-member panel has been trying to come up with a new law that can regulate billboards while also surviving a legal challenge. But with two members absent, the commission -- whose members are appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- has not been able to muster the five votes needed to pass the proposed law.

Four commissioners say they are worried about some of the exceptions within the new law, including language that would give the City Council the discretion to create up to 21 new sign districts, where billboards and supergraphics would be allowed. Three commissioners counter that the new law provides a balanced approach to the issue and needs no further tinkering.

After a series of 4-3 votes –- not enough to put the matter to rest –- the commission broke for lunch, hoping to come up with a solution later today. Stay tuned.

Updated, 3:08 p.m.: Well, they gave up. The commission, happy and fed, returned from lunch but could not muster five votes to pass a new billboard law. Although one member switched his vote, the split was still 4 to 3.

Commissioners will come back next week to try, yet again, to approve a new, reworded proposal for regulating billboards, outdoor signs and supergraphics.

-- David Zahniser

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