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Fees for Billboard Inspections Urged

Ads: Council panel says firms should be assessed for each of their signs in the city. Industry objects.

April 10, 2002|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sign companies would have to pay an annual fee of as much as $477 for each billboard they own to finance an inspection program under an ordinance recommended Tuesday by a Los Angeles City Council panel.

The proposal drew strong opposition from major billboard company representatives, including George Manyak, Western regional president for Clear Channel Outdoor.

Manyak told the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee that the proposal would cost his company $1 million a year.

"It's an excessive tax that they cannot justify," he said.

But Councilman Ed Reyes said the industry has to cover the cost of addressing the proliferation of illegal billboards, which may be as high as 40% of the city's 10,000 billboards.

"I have received more complaints of blight about these billboards" than other issues, Reyes told industry leaders during a hearing at City Hall.

The proposal would charge a fee of $477 per billboard the first year to pay for an inventory of all billboards, research to determine whether they have permits and inspection of about one-third of the billboards.

The fee would decrease gradually as more billboards were inspected, until in the fifth year companies would pay $235 per billboard to fund an ongoing annual inspection program.

However, Maria Gobic of Vista Media said the fee would add up for large firms, such as hers, which has 3,000 billboards in the city.

"It seems a little ridiculous that we continue to pay for inspections," said Ken Spiker Jr., a lobbyist for the industry.

Councilman Jack Weiss, who authored the original ordinance calling for annual inspections, said the plea of financial hardship is not believable.

"For an industry that makes tens of thousands of dollars per month for certain signs to say they can't afford this fee is so laughable it almost destroys their credibility on everything else they say," he said.

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