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New Billboard Displays 'Drive-By Art' : Program Developed in Response to Residents' Protests Over Construction of Sign

March 12, 1992|ANN MAURER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

EAGLE ROCK — In a compromise to stop a homeowner protest, Gannett Outdoor has made an unusual commitment to showcase local artists and photographers along with paid advertising on a recently constructed billboard on Colorado Boulevard.

Under the terms of the agreement, reached by Gannett and The Eagle Rock Assn., a photograph or artwork will be displayed on the 14-by-48-foot surface when the billboard is not in use. Once the advertising space is sold, the artwork will be moved to the back to cover the steel grid that residents consider an eyesore.

The first work, a color photograph called "Pink Flower in a Glen," went up Feb. 28 and will remain for one year.

Bonnie Kingry, a public affairs representative with Gannett, said she proposed the program, called "Drive-By Art," to appease TERA, which began protesting as soon as construction of the billboard began in December, 1991.

About 20 residents, led by TERA's president, Kathleen Aberman, picketed the site and walked to Councilman Richard Alatorre's Eagle Rock office seeking his support.

Residents contend that the billboard obstructs views and disrupts the ambience of a scenic corner. They also complain that it should not have been allowed before adoption of a proposed Colorado Boulevard Specific Plan drafted by community members to promote Colorado Boulevard as a scenic, pedestrian-oriented street.

TERA is lobbying Alatorre to ensure that the plan includes a prohibition on the construction or replacement of billboards--the first such ban proposed in Los Angeles. Aberman said such a prohibition appeared in early drafts of the plan but was removed in the current version, which is pending before the City Council.

Residents said they are content with the agreement, which was announced last week, but are still not pleased with the billboard, which they believe does not fit into the small-town image they are trying to create on Colorado Boulevard.

"We're not happy with the billboard," Aberman said. "But if anything can make it a little less ugly, then we're willing to go along with it."

The agreement, which is binding for 10 years, stipulates that the artist be an Eagle Rock resident. Kingry said she selected the first artist, photographer Ildiko Laszlo-Hutkoff, whose work she knew. It has not been decided how subsequent artists will be selected.

Although showing community art does not cost significantly more, Kingry said there are no plans to use "Drive-By Art" on other billboards.

Kingry said that the Eagle Rock protest was the largest the company has encountered and that it called for a unique solution.

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