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Judge strikes down deal allowing digital billboards

A judge has formally invalidated a 2006 settlement between the city of Los Angeles and two companies, CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel Outdoor, that granted them special rights to convert as many as 840 billboards to a digital format, among other changes.

The settlement was negotiated by former City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo after the two companies sued the city over its billboard regulations.

Another billboard company, Summit Media, challenged the settlement last year, arguing it was illegal because the city allowed the companies to make sign changes barred under city law.

In a written ruling this week, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Terry A. Green said he agreed with Summit. He found that the city acted beyond the scope of its authority when it allowed the two companies to convert their conventional wood-and-vinyl signs to the bright digital signs that have infuriated neighborhood groups and prompted complaints from drivers.

Summit had asked Green to invalidate all the permits issued to the companies as a result of the settlement — raising the possibility that the digital signs would have to be removed. But Green wrote in his ruling that revocation of permits was an administrative issue for the city.

“With the protections of the settlement agreement gone, the city’s administrative hearings would no longer be a futile exercise and the city must apply its codes equally to all,” the judge wrote. “Citizen challenges to the billboards could be made on an individual basis, with the merits of each determined independently.”

He said the city’s elected officials were in the best position “to make these determinations and to decide what standards are to be applied.”

City Councilman Paul Koretz has already asked the council to let Green’s ruling stand and require companies to convert their digital signs back to conventional billboards.

“Unless there’s a legal reason preventing us from doing so, I’d like to see us start taking down some of these digital billboards,” Koretz said.

A spokesman for the city attorney’s office said lawyers were reviewing the ruling and planned to advise council members of their options. Representatives of Clear Channel Outdoor and CBS Outdoor said they planned to appeal.

Summit's attorney, Anthony P. Alden, said the ruling was a victory for the people of Los Angeles. "We're confident that city officials will now do the right thing and revoke the permits for the existing digital signs — and insist that the signs be promptly turned off and removed," Alden said.

—Maeve Reston at Los Angeles City Hall

Comments () | Archives (8)

I've got one of those billboards shining right into my living room. Take them all down!!

And thank you to Councilmember Koretz for pursuing the issue.

Agreed! These are pointless wastes of energy and need to be taken down immediately.


It's funny how lawmakers are going after everything that could possibly distract a driver, right down to car radios, yet letting companies put up those billboards, whose whole reason for existence is to distract drivers. The intended purpose of any billboard is to distract drivers. But that's okay because it's a corporation trying to make money, apparently.

It's about damned time!~

Thank you Paul Koretz? Are you kidding? Koretz had nothing to do with this case and doesn't know what he's talking about. This case was about an illegal backroom deal made by Rocky Delgadillo and Jack Weiss to rape the City's ability to regulate billboards and do a favor for their campaign contributors. It took a real City Attorney to sort this mess out, and the thanks belong to having an independent City Attorney in office, not some termed-out ex-Sacramento career politician.

Good. Those things are a distraction hazard for drivers, and therefore a threat to pedestrians as well. They should all be taken down.

LA, the Green city

Billboards are distraction for drivers and pedestrians, and sometimes cause of accident.


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