Mobile Billboards: Eyesore or Sales Pitch - NBC Southern California

Mobile Billboards: Eyesore or Sales Pitch

Some businesses see them as free speech, but a new law gives cities the right to ban them



    You've probably seen them on streets in the San Fernando Valley. The small, trailer-mounted advertising signs are all over.

    "It blights our neighbor and it's a threat to public safety... they've got to go," said Councilman Paul Krekorian.

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed a new law that gives cities such as Los Angeles the right to ban billboards mounted on trailers from city streets. Los Angeles officials had sought the law on the grounds that these mobile billboards are eyesores and should not be parked along roadways.

    Most of them are in the San Fernando Valley where businessman Bruce Boyer believes they bring in customers for his burglar alarm company. He said that he would be happy to be a test case should the city of Los Angeles actually ban the billboards.

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    He believes the First Amendment supports his position.

    "I live in a free country, and that means when I pay my license plate for that vehicle I have every right to use my public highways just like everyone else does," Boyer said.

    Krekorian said he gets the free-speech concerns, but added that the issue isn't the content -- it's where it's parked.

    "What we are trying to regulate here is this parking of these trailer-based signs, so it has nothing to do with the content that's on there,." he said. "It's the parking of these signs that serve no other function than sitting, taking up parking spaces and distracting drivers from the road."

    About a decade ago, Boyer rolled out the trailers to advertise his security company. He selected roads without parking restrictions.

    But there is a state-wide standard that vehicles on public roads cannot be left in place for more than 72 hours. Some of his billboards have been impounded.

    "I'm just a burglar alarm salesman from Reseda, but I know the law, I know my rights, and I don't scare well," Boyer said.

    Assemblymen Bob Blumenfield and Mike Feuer authored that bill that creates an exception to the 72-hour minimum and allows cities to ban parking of signs outright. Blumenfield called the billboards a "cancer that has spread across the San Fernando Valley, invading every neighborhood and blighting our streets."

    "When we ultimately win, the taxpayers will pay for the politicians foolishness again," Boyer said.