Although Los Angeles City Council passed a 2002 Billboard sign ordinance to ban visual blight, it is now trying to sidestep that ordinance.
Given that Los Angeles will be the site of some 2026 World Cup Soccer Games, and also the 2028 Olympics, why does the L.A. City’s Planning and Land Use Committee want to change the scenic landscape by adding 80 new large billboards – digital with signs constantly changing?
The City has justified the decision because it notes the billboards will help with data collection. They say it will support equity because the digital messaging will increase public transit ridership. The City will also share advertising dollars with the Metro Transportation Community Network (TCN).
A city administrative document reported: “These digital displays, which will be located along freeways and major intersections, will be used for off-site advertising and public safety messaging. . . Relevant traffic and transit updates and travel alternatives, including public transit alternatives, will also be shared with drivers and commuters.”
The report adds that signs/structures built by the Metro Transportation Community Network (TCN) will also include 5G technology and live video and security feeds, which may capture personal information from motorists’ and pedestrians’ individual electronic devices.
Under an agreement between the City and Metro, each party will receive 50 percent of net revenue generated from advertising by TCN digital displays located within City boundaries for 20 years.
The funds will be overseen by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) and are supposed to be used solely for transportation related projects and amenities near transit that may include transit shelters, street furniture, curb improvements, pedestrian safety, and . . .ironically, beautification projects needed to improve conditions for public transit patrons.
According to its January 2023 Metro Board report, Metro staff estimate the TCN program will generate between $300 million to $500 million over the 20-year term of the MOA for both Metro and the City. But, L.A. City’s CAO (City Administrative Officer) and CLA (Chief Legal Advisor) were unable to substantiate that estimate.
It is not only residents who are objecting to the large billboards. In the Draft EIR, it noted the Project would have “Significant and Unavoidable” environmental impacts related to a subset of the TCN Structures for the following resource areas: Aesthetics, Historical Resources, and Land Use and Planning.
Who stands to gain from this project?
Council President Paul Krekorian in December 2021 approved the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Metro while chair of the Budget and Finance committee. There was no posting or notice to the public of his decision.
In June 2022, Krekorian removed the paragraph from a Planning and Land Use Motion that would have required an analysis of the Program’s consistency with the City’s Mobility Plan and pending Sign Ordinance.
One of the key lobbyists for AllVision (Metro’s single-source vendor for the project) is Areen Ibranossian, former Chief of Staff to Councilmember Krekorian. He was lobbying for AllVision when Krekorian approved the MOA (as Chair of the Council’s Budget Committee).
Ibranossian is still a lobbyist for the City.
At a September 14 City Planning Commission hearing, Krekorian’s deputy spoke is strong support of the program on behalf of the Councilmember and Mayor Karen Bass.
“We were shocked to learn the Mayor is supporting a program that reverses 20 years of sound City policy, is overwhelmingly opposed by the public, and will forever blight the City’s landscape,” said Wendy-Sue Rosen co-president of Coalition for a Beautiful Los Angeles.
Barbara Broide, who is Westside Neighborhood Council Land Use Chair spoke at the October 26, Pacific Palisades Community Council, “Whether or not there are proposed digital billboard structures in any specific Neighborhood or Community Council area, we all drive or ride past the locations where signs are proposed.
“Many structures are strategically placed before freeway interchanges — the locations where driver attention is particularly important,” Broide said. “On the Westside they include signs facing the 405 just north of the freeway interchange with the 10/Santa Monica freeway– on both the northbound and southbound sides of the freeways.
“Also included is signage just off the 10 freeway at Robertson/Venice Boulevards with two faces facing freeway traffic and another structure with two directed toward busy City streets.
“In the Westchester/Playa del Rey are there are six billboard faces proposed with an additional two faces adjacent to LAX,” Broide said. “There is still one of the two two-faced proposed structures off the Marina/90 freeway adjacent to the Ballona Wetlands Reserve.”
As of October 26, there have been 24 Neighborhood/Community Councils who have written in opposition of the digital billboards and 14 Community and environmental organizations, including SAG/AFTRA.
An entertainment industry insider said, “The City never reached out to anyone in the entertainment community to see if this would be damaging. It would be very very damaging. The signs would be located at key areas throughout the city where filming occurs.”
CTN was told the signs present a filming problem because L.A. is used as a backdrop to pretend it is other places. The insider said that rather than spend money to take these signs out of shots in key filming areas, “films and television shows will move out of LA and most likely the state.
“The two biggest films of the summer would not have shot here had these billboards been up in these locations,” the professional said and noted that the signs will really impact the look of all of LA, Westside, and the Valley – ‘think Tokyo.’”
Residents can weigh in with the City’s PLUM committee members, the meeting may be held as early as November 7:
Chair Marqueece Harris-Dawson <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Heather Hutt email@example.com, Imelda Padilla Imelda.firstname.lastname@example.org, John Lee email@example.com, Katy Yaroslavsky <firstname.lastname@example.org>
An additional email should be sent to Traci Park (email@example.com) and Mayor Karen Bass (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A copy of any comments sent should also be entered into the City Council File Comment page: click here.