City Signs Off on Billboard Rules

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday approved a three-month moratorium on new billboards and a new fee structure, while attorneys work on an ordinance for regulating electronic billboards. 

Sign companies that provide the city with valid permit information will pay a fee of $186 every three years, while those that do not will have to pay $342 every three years.

The fee is expected to raise about $600,000 a year for helping police the city's estimated 10,000 billboards, city officials said.

Six years ago, the City Council instituted a $314 billboard fee. In response, Clear Channel Outdoor Inc., Viacom Outdoor Inc. and National Advertising Co. sued the city, and a federal judge temporarily barred the city from collecting the charge over concerns that it limited free speech. Those lawsuits have since been settled.

Through inspections, the city will create a database of all signs, including permit and ownership information.

The City Council also approved a three-month moratorium on all new billboards and "supergraphics."

City Councilman Ed Reyes, chair of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee, said the interim ordinance will provide the city with the time officials need to write a law to regulate where traditional and electronic signs can be posted.

"This is a diverse city. There are just some places that we don't want billboards and some places where we can work with our stakeholders, work with community members to find those locations," Reyes said.

The Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight supports the ban on new signs.

"The people of this city do not want an urban environment in which citizens are confronted at every turn with sales pitches -- a city that is reduced to a vast carnival," said the group's Dennis Hathaway.

"People do not want public spaces for trees, benches, fountains and other amenities that invite people to gather (to be) displaced by loud light and sound shows serving the advertising industry and their clients."

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