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Appeals court upholds L.A.'s 2002 billboard ban

January 6, 2009 | 12:53 pm

In a ruling likely to affect billboard regulations across the nation, a federal appellate court in San Francisco today ruled that Los Angeles’ 2002 citywide outdoor advertising ban did not violate a sign company's 1st Amendment right to free speech.

The decision, issued by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, reversed a lower court and handed a rare victory to the city in its battle to regulate billboards that some residents consider a form of urban blight.

Metro Lights LLC had argued that the city could not prohibit new "off-site" signs -- images that advertise products not sold on the immediate property -- while at the same time selling advertising space on city-owned bus benches and kiosks. By selling such ad space, the City Council had decided to "auction off 1st Amendment rights to the highest bidder," Metro Lights argued.

But the court decided otherwise: "This is strong, if rather sloganeering, language, but after reviewing the case law on which Metro Lights relies, we believe it to be little more than a canard," the court wrote.

A full story will be posted to our website shortly.

-- David Zahniser