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Appeals court orders removal of 100 digital billboards across L.A.

December 10, 2012 |  2:06 pm

A three-judge panel on Monday ruled that roughly 100 digital billboards installed in Los Angeles under a 2006 legal settlement approved by the Los Angeles City Council must be removed.

The panel from the state's 2nd District Court of Appeal said sign companies CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel outdoor should not have been allowed to convert their existing billboards to electronic formats when existing laws prohibited such changes. "We do not see how the language could be plainer," the ruling states.

The panel instructed a lower court to order the removal of digital billboards already permitted under the agreement, many of which were on the Westside.

Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, hailed the ruling. "Needless to say, [it's] a very happy day for us," he said in an email.

Of the billboards that are at issue, 79 are operated by Clear Channel. The remainder were owned by CBS.

CBS and Clear Channel sued the city nearly a decade ago, seeking to block implementation of an ordinance banning the installation of new billboards except in special sign districts. In 2006, the council backed a settlement with the two companies that allowed them to convert up to 840 existing billboards to electronic formats.

Summit Outdoor, a smaller sign company, went to court to invalidate the agreement, calling it a sweetheart deal.

A judge sided with Summit, calling the agreement "poison" and blocking the city from allowing new digital signs to go up. But he refused to order the removal of the 100 or so billboards that had already been converted to digital formats under the 2006 settlement.

"It's fantastic," said Barbara Broide, president of the Westwood South of Santa Monica Blvd. Homeowners Assn., which filed an amicus brief in support of Summit Media's lawsuit. "I think this is a hard-fought win. This city should be grateful to Summit for having brought the suit."

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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall
twitter.com/DavidZahniser

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