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'For Sale' Signs on Cars OK, Judge Says

Ordinance: L.A. ban had applied to parked vehicles. Violator who got a ticket took legal fight to ACLU.

October 17, 2000|CARLA HALL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

At last--you can park your car on the streets of Los Angeles with a "For Sale" sign in the window.

A federal judge said Monday that he would issue a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the city's ban on "For Sale" signs in cars parked on city streets.

Contrary to common custom, there is a Los Angeles city ordinance prohibiting "For Sale" signs in or on a car. Surprised?

"So are about 500 other people in the last year who've gotten tickets," said Peter Eliasberg, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. The fine is $35.

One violator decided to fight back. Edward Burkow was ticketed in September 1999. He paid the fine but contested it to Municipal Court, where he lost his appeal.

This past spring, he took his case to the ACLU. The civil liberties group, along with the law firm of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, filed a lawsuit in June, saying the ordinance violated 1st Amendment rights. Judge A. Howard Matz heard oral arguments Monday on a motion filed by the ACLU for a preliminary injunction. Geoffrey Thomas, the pro-bono counsel from the law firm, argued against the city law.

City attorneys argued for keeping the ban on a number of grounds, including aesthetics and traffic flow, according to Eliasberg.

The ACLU attorney said there is little merit to the city's defense on aesthetics, considering "we have buildings in the shape of hot dogs and doughnuts." As for traffic flow, the odd thing about the law is that it bans "For Sale" signs only in parked cars, not moving cars.

Matz didn't buy the city's position. "The court cannot fathom how a sign in a parked car is more dangerous than the same sign in a moving car," the judge wrote.

The judge stated that, under the ordinance, "commercial advertisements on cars could offer anything for sale . . . except the car on which the sign is mounted."

The city could now suggest narrowing the law.

The city attorney who argued for the ordinance was not available for comment late Monday. Neither was Burkow, who still hasn't sold his car.

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Times staff writer David Rosenzweig contributed to this story.

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