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Culver City Planning Panel Asks MGM to Scale Down Historic Sign

March 01, 1987|JEFF BURBANK | Times Staff Writer

Leo the Lion can stay, but the 53x103-foot sign advertising the old MGM studio is too big, according to Culver City Planning Commission.

The commission also wants Lorimar Telepictures to remove a portion of its large sign that advertises the company's film productions

MGM/UA Communications Co. was asked reduce the height of the sign that the movie company wants to place atop the Filmland Corporate Center in downtown Culver City. The sign includes a 36-foot-long "Leo the Lion" logo and the name "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer" spanning 103 feet.

A spokeswoman for Lorimar, which owns the former MGM studio across from Filmland, said that the company will ask the City Council to override the commission's recommendation.

Recommendation to Deny

The planning staff recommended denial of the request to move the MGM sign to Filmland.

Joseph Montoya, associate city planner, said that the sign was too large and that its blue color would clash with Filmland's pink granite exterior.

"The very size and scale of the proposed sign are architecturally disharmonious with the (Filmland) building," Montoya said.

The commission overrode his recommendation, but said MGM must perform a shade-and-shadow study, as required by state regulations, and give the city the right to buy the sign if the company moves out the city.

Commissioner Thomas W. Betts said that although he had reservations about the sign's height and color, "I don't want to send the message to the City Council that we don't want this historic monument." Commissioner Charles S. Blum described the sign as "an asset to the community."

Media Event Planned

MGM President Stephen D. Silbert told city officials that the company wanted the sign approved as soon as possible because MGM is planning a "major" media event to relight the sign after placing it atop Filmland.

In a separate action, the commission approved Lorimar's 47-foot-high roof sign but denied the company the right to use the bottom part of the sign to advertise films in production.

Harris said that the part of the sign that advertised the company's films had more commercial than historical significance.

The MGM sign is stored in the Boyle Heights office of the Heath Co., which designed it. As proposed, the nine columns supporting the sign would be painted blue to match the faces of the doubled-sided sign.

MGM had applied for a zoning change to move the sign and to place it on the roof of Filmland because the sign was designated "historically significant" by the city in 1983.

The 53-year-old sign was removed last November, violating the ordinance protecting the historic sign, which required the company seek city permission to move it. Lorimar, in turn, violated the same law when it placed without permission its sign on supports previously used to prop up the MGM sign.

The city decided not to prosecute either company because both later applied for permission to change the signs, said City Atty. Joseph W. Pannone.

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