Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Federal judge backs L.A.'s ban against new billboards, supergraphics

September 28, 2009 | 12:34 pm

A federal judge refused today to halt enforcement of the Los Angeles City Council’s newest outdoor advertising law, which bars the installation of new digital billboards and multistory supergraphic signs across the city.

In a tentative ruling, U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins said Liberty Media had failed to show a likelihood that it would prevail with its procedural arguments against the month-old ordinance.

Liberty had asked Collins to issue an injunction and force the city’s Building and Safety Department to allow 16 new signs to go up. One billboard foe had feared that a ruling against Los Angeles would have had greater ramifications, opening the door to scores of new signs by other advertising businesses.

 “My feeling was that if she ruled in favor of Liberty Media, the sign companies would be lining up outside the Building and Safety Department to get permits,” said Dennis Hathway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight.

City officials said all 16 signs sought by Liberty Media were supergraphics, which can cover the entire side of a building.

Los Angeles is fighting more than 20 legal challenges from the billboard companies opposed to its efforts to regulate outdoor advertising. The council approved a temporary sign ban in December, hoping to buy itself time to craft a new ordinance that would withstand a court challenge.

In the weeks after that vote, Liberty Media challenged the moratorium, saying that exceptions had been made for “favored high-profile developments,” including the W Hotel in Hollywood. The council responded months later by unanimously passing a permanent sign ban in August.

Soon afterward, Liberty Media argued that the council had violated the state’s open meetings law and its own City Charter by enacting the law. Collins disagreed in her tentative decision. “None of these claims has merit,” she wrote.

Deputy City Atty. Michael Bostrom said he was pleased with the tentative ruling and would seek to enforce the sign laws in a uniform way. Liberty’s attorney, Andrew Kugler of Mayer Brown, had no immediate comment.

-- David Zahniser at L.A. City Hall