Digital Billboards in the City of Los Angeles: The Recent History. Questions Presented. Los Angeles City Planning Commission October 16, 2008 The City’s Governing Regulations By ordinance adopted in February 2002, the City created an Off-Site Sign Periodic Inspection Program. LAMC §91.6205.18. The Program provided for off-site sign inspections, creation of a citywide inventory, orders to comply for Code violations, removals, and fees. By ordinance adopted thereafter, the City banned off-site signs except those permitted by specific plan, supplemental use district, development agreement or relocation agreement. The ordinance further provided that “legally permitted existing signs shall not be altered or enlarged.” LAMC §12.21A7(l). (continued next slide) Governing Regulations (cont.) By ordinance adopted in December 2007, in anticipation of the uniform building code to take effect on January 1, 2008, the City transferred certain of its existing Sign Regulations from the Building Code to the Planning and Zoning Code. The City Council unanimously adopted the transfer ordinance (Reyes absent). The City’s Sign Regulations are now contained in Article 4.4 of the Planning and Zoning Code and Division 62 of the Building Code. LAMC §§14.4.1-20 and 91.6201 – 91.62.16. Among many other provisions, the regulations define off-site signs, limit sign light intensity to three foot candles above ambient lighting, require traffic hazard evaluation for signs visible from and located within 500 feet of a freeway, and prohibit signs within 2000 feet of a freeway if mainly viewed from the freeway or its off-ramp. Selected Litigation #1 Clear Channel/CBS: Suit filed by Clear Channel and CBS (then Viacom Outdoor) against the City in September 2002. At issue: a challenge to the City’s inspection program and fee. In October 2002, the District Court enjoined the City from enforcing its sign inspection program. The Ninth Circuit vacated the injunction in August 2003. In March 2006, the District Court ruled in the City’s favor on the constitutional claims regarding content neutrality of the inspection program. Settled February 2007 as part of Vista settlement (next slide). Settlement Facts: CBS acknowledged that it has 1,628 sign structures and Clear Channel acknowledged that it has 1,657 sign structures in the City. Key Settlement Terms: companies to deliver billboard inventory to the City; 420 credits per company to modernize (convert to digital), add up to 75 cut- outs/extensions and 100 double panels, and permit certain post 1986 structures not in conformance with permits; issue permits for pre-1986 structures and for 1986-1998 structures that could have been lawfully erected; removal of 49 (3%) structures per company; removal of post 1998 structures that have no permit; and payment of reduced inspection fees. Selected Litigation #2 Vista: Suit filed by Vista against the City in October 2002. Regency, Clear Channel, and CBS (then known as Viacom Outdoor) filed cross-complaints against the City. At issue: a challenge to the City’s inspection program and fee. In February 2006, the trial court ruled in the City’s favor on all state constitutional claims. The order did not address the federal constitutional issues (which were addressed in the federal litigation) or the propriety of the amount of the fee. Settled August 2005. Settlement Facts: Vista acknowledged that it could not locate permits for at least 500 of its 8-Sheet panels and that all 170 backlit City Lights billboards and many 8-Sheets do not strictly conform to their permits. Key Settlement Terms: joint creation of billboard inventory; removal of a minimum of 500 non-permitted panels; retention and permits for 835 structures not conforming to permits; modernizing (convert to City Lights Boards) and permits for 280 City Lights structures (461 panels); and payment of reduced inspection fees. Selected Litigation #2 (cont.) Regency Outdoor: Cross-complaint filed against the City in the Vista lawsuit (see previous slide). At issue: a challenge to the City’s inspection fee. Settled March 2007. Settlement Facts: Regency represented that it has 150 sign structures in the City. Key Settlement Terms: Regency to deliver billboard inventory to the City; 38 credits to modernize (conversion to digital) structures, add up to 6 cut-outs/extensions, add up to 9 double panels, and permit certain post 1986 structures not in conformance with permits; issue permits for pre-1986 structures and for 1986-1998 structures that could have been lawfully erected; removal of 5 (3%) structures; removal of post 1998 structures that have no permit; and payment of reduced inspection fees. Selected Litigation #3 Metro Lights: Suit filed against the City in February 2004. At issue: a constitutional challenge to the City’s billboard ban. The District Court ruled in August 2007 that the billboard ban violates the First Amendment because it was not narrowly tailored to accomplish the City’s visual blight and traffic hazard goals in light of the City’s street furniture agreement with Viacom that permits billboards. This ruling is on appeal to the Ninth Circuit, which heard oral argument in June 2008. Selected Litigation #4 and #5 World Wide Rush: Suit filed against the City in January 2007. At issue: Constitutional challenges to the City’s billboard ban. The District Court granted summary judgment and issued a permanent injunction against the City in August 2008, based on its ruling that the City’s billboard regulations permit it unfettered discretion in the determination of whether and where to allow billboards. On appeal to the Ninth Circuit. LA Outdoor Advertising: Suit filed against the City in December 2007. At issue: Constitutional challenges to the City’s billboard ban and freeway limitations, alleging arbitrary application of these rules and arbitrary grant of billboard entitlements to others. Still in the pleading stages. (There are other billboard lawsuits; this surveys only 5 major cases.) Related City Council Actions 11/1/00: Motion to require conditional use permit for all billboards. 1/16/02: Motion ADOPTED to undertake a billboard inventory and a survey of billboard practices in surrounding jurisdictions. 9/8/04: Motion to restart the Off-Site Sign Inspection Program (OSSIP). 11/5/04: Motion to create regulations to enable revocation of billboard permits on properties with unresolved DBS violations. 10/25/05: Motion to investigate killing trees near LAX for billboards (Regency) and to restart OSSIP. 1/31/07: Motion ADOPTED that the billboard inventories are not proprietary and should be subject to the California Public Records Act. 4/13/07: Resolution ADOPTED to support State Legislation (Ridley- Thomas) to remove the “rebuttable presumption” that billboards older than 5 years are lawful and to remove the requirement that just compensation be paid on the removal of illegally altered billboards. (continued next slide) City Council Actions (cont.) 5/23/07: Motion to require DBS status report on unlawful billboard modernizations. 9/12/07: Motion to require DBS status report on modernizations, number of billboards allowed via settlement, options for limiting digital billboards, inspection program, and inventories. DBS delivered reports dated Dec. 3, 2007 and Feb. 21, May 23 and May 27, 2008. 4/11/08: Motion to create penalties relating to illegal supergraphics. 7/29/08: Motion to revise the City’s sign ordinances to create easily enforceable time, place, and manner restrictions and clear sign district criteria. Referred to DCP on Sept. 9, 2008. 10/1/08: Motion for report from City Attorney on sign credits, digital conversions, and CEQA under settlement agreements and on legal and legislative options to limit residential billboard blight. 10/3/08: Motion to require DBS report on existing billboard inventory and for partnership with community developed inventories. 10/10/08: Motion to learn CEQA applicability, locations and zoning rules pertinent to modernizations, and whether settlements were an unlawful surrender of City’s police power. Building & Safety Questions Regarding the Off-Site Sign Inspection Program, what is the status of our inventory, permits, and inspections? How many billboards exist? How many have been cited? How many have been removed? Regarding digital billboards, how many conversion and new applications have been granted? Denied? Pending? What standards do you use to evaluate these requests? Are these standards codified and unambiguous? In evaluating digital applications, what consideration is given to operating hours, energy impacts, illumination, location, spacing, traffic hazard, or other environmental consequences? Legal Questions What benefits did the City receive from its settlements with Vista, Clear Channel, CBS, and Regency? Under Trancas and League of Residential Neighborhood Advocates, which speak to the primacy of a City’s police power and its zoning regulations, did the lawsuit settlement powers of the City extend to granting the various billboard entitlements to Clear Channel, CBS, Vista, and Regency? Was the City authorized to settle these cases and grant these entitlements without conducting any CEQA review? Does the CPC have the authority to initiate an ICO prohibiting the conversion of static billboards to digital technology? If not, why not? If yes, are there any limitations on the ICO terms? End Prepared for the CPC by Jane Usher With special thanks to the City Attorney for review and suggested corrections to the recent history slides. All remaining errors are mine.
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