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City to Take More Time on Billboard Rules

By Eric Richardson
Published: Thursday, February 19, 2009, at 11:59AM
New Ad Eric Richardson [Flickr]

Many new supergraphics sprung up over the last month of 2008, including this one off of Figueroa.

A massive revision to Los Angeles' citywide signage code was again delayed today, as the City Planning Commission voted to continue the item after two hours of public comment. The rules are intended to stem the proliferation of billboards and supergraphics around the city, but would have an effect on every level of signage from store names to massive displays.

After a lengthy discussion, the Commission voted to continue the item, and will meet to set a timeline next week. The group also voted to instruct Planning staff to continue work on a version of the ordinance that would retain the distinction between on-site and off-site signage, something originally taken out.

The new ordinance, proposed by the Planning department, would create more restrictive rules on signage citywide. The rewritten rules did not completely please either side of the signage debate, and the department brought a rewritten ordinance -- in fact, two alternative ordinances -- to the Commission this morning.

Most importantly, the new ordinance revisions added enforcement mechanisms intended to ensure that any passed rules had the teeth to prevent illegal signs.

In December, the City Council passed an Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) prohibiting new signs. That 90-day mechanism expires in mid-March. Councilmembers Jack Weiss and Eric Garcetti will introduce a motion in Council tomorrow seeking to extend the ICO.

Despite prohibitions on new off-site signage and supergraphics, the ads have flourished in recent months. In highly publicized cases, advertising companies have placed new signs even as the city has brought action against building owners not complying with the rules.

Commission members today praised the job that Planning department staff had done in pulling together an ordinance so quickly, but expressed their discomfort moving forward after hearing so much public comment asking for more time to properly understand the rules and reach out to their stakeholders.

The Commission created a subcommittee to prepare recommendations for next week. That group includes Commissioners Woo, Roschen, Burton and Cardoso.

Update (3:15pm): Our earlier story, published at noon, included this paragraph:

While the Commission was still debating exact direction to staff and the length of the continuance as of the time this story was published, each Commissioner expressed their opinion that action should be delayed. One said that in his four years on the Commission, the signage ordinance would have the widest impact of any issue the body had considered.

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