The City Council moved one step closer this week to banning billboards, directing City Manager Timothy Casey to draft an ordinance that would prohibit new billboards and would require companies to seek special permission to replace existing ones.
The council decision came despite appeals from representatives of several billboard companies, who argued that the new restrictions would put the companies out of business in Redondo Beach and may violate their First Amendment right to free speech.
"I believe our industry certainly has a right to survive and be part of this community," said Bonnie Kingry, a representative of Foster & Kleiser, a Metromedia company with 16 billboards in Redondo Beach.
But Casey said representatives from Foster & Kleiser, Gannett Outdoor and the Winston Network--the outdoor advertising companies with the most billboards in the city--were unable to agree among themselves on what should be included in a new billboard ordinance.
The city staff consulted with the three companies last month after the City Council rejected a ban on billboards that had been proposed by the Planning Department. The council directed the staff to work out a compromise with the companies.
At a meeting with city officials, Casey said, Foster & Kleiser and Gannett Outdoor proposed regulations that would prohibit new signs but would allow the replacement of signs.
But the Winston Network representative opposed a ban that would include small signs, Casey said. Unlike the other two companies, Winston deals exclusively in smaller signs that the firm argues are compatible with the city's commercial corridors. Winston, which has only three signs in the city, proposed that the ordinance exclude new smaller billboards from the ban.
"I don't know how you can compromise between, 'They want it and we don't,' " said Councilwoman Marcia Martin, who voted in favor of drafting a restrictive ordinance that would ban all new billboards and would require a conditional-use permit to replace existing signs lost through attrition. The companies would need to receive approval for the permit from the Planning Commission, following a public hearing.
"The long-term land-use and planning interests of the city would be best served by some approach that would ultimately lead to the elimination of billboards in the city's commercial corridors," Casey told the council in urging approval of new restrictions.
In the meantime, the council directed City Atty. Gordon Phillips to prepare an interim ordinance to be introduced at next week's meeting that would allow new billboards only with a conditional-use permit. The interim ordinance, which is expected to take effect in June, would be "the next-closest thing to a ban" while staff drafts the new ordinance, Casey said.