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AGOURA HILLS : 8 Businesses File Suits Over Signs

May 10, 1994|KURT PITZER

Eight businesses have filed lawsuits against the city of Agoura Hills in an effort to block a law requiring them to remove their pole-mounted advertisements.

Chevron, Unocal, McDonald's, Texaco, Burger King, Denny's, Lumber City and Roadside Lumber have filed separate suits during the past two weeks challenging the city's ban of tall signs that line the Ventura Freeway.

Agoura Hills outlawed pole-mounted advertisements nine years ago, saying they spoil the panoramic view of the foothills, and gave merchants seven years to remove them. In November, voters sanctioned the ban by a 3-1 margin.

The lawsuits argue that removing the large, illuminated signs would severely hurt the profits of the plaintiffs, who rely on the business of freeway travelers.

"If the Denny's sign were removed," states the Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit by that business, "the drop in revenues and profits would be so serious that the restaurant would have to close or would face a serious threat of having to close."

Hearing dates have not been set for the lawsuits, Agoura Hills City Atty. Greg Stepanicich said.

City Manager Terry Matz said although the city and business owners have had nine years to settle the issue, he almost expected the lawsuits.

"We had hoped that we would get voluntary compliance with our ordinance, particularly in light of the ballot measures," Matz said. "It's disappointing that it has come to lawsuits, but not surprising."

The ban on pole signs has been the thorniest, longest-running political issue in the city's 12-year history.

Attempts by the city to gain compliance with the law ended in a standoff with about a dozen merchants, who formed a political action committee and spent more than $100,000 in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat the November ballot measures.

Officials in Agoura Hills, meanwhile, have struck a deal with owners of a gas station to remove one of the tallest pole-mounted signs in town, in exchange for a promise to quickly review plans to remodel the station.

The agreement signed April 28 by representatives of the city and Shell Oil Co. states that Shell's sign atop a 70-foot pole at 5134 Kanan Road will be removed when the city issues permits to build a mini-mart and carwash on the premises.

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