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Delgadillo Urges Enlisting State in Billboard Fight

Advertising: The city attorney calls on the council to rid L.A.'s 'most visually blighted areas' of the signs.

January 31, 2002|TINA DAUNT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In his strongest call yet for greater restrictions on billboards, Los Angeles City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo on Wednesday urged council members to take action to remove the giant signs in the city's "most visually blighted areas."

Delgadillo suggested that the City Council work with state legislators to change a California law that limits cities' abilities to take down the signs.

"We think it's high time the state Legislature abolish its preferential treatment of the billboard industry and give back to the cities our vital regulatory capabilities," Delgadillo said.

Since his election last year with the strong support of the billboard industry, Delgadillo has taken steps to limit the signs in Los Angeles. He sought to assure council members Wednesday that removing billboard clutter from neighborhoods is one of his top priorities.

"We can realize the day when all the neighborhoods and communities are free from the blight of billboards," Delgadillo said.

Several council members agreed, suggesting that not only should the city lawmakers urge the Los Angeles contingent of legislators to propose change but should also visit Sacramento to personally lobby for new laws.

Council members also signaled their support Wednesday for an ordinance--proposed by Councilman Jack Weiss--that would require billboard companies to pay an annual fee to have their signs certified. The objective, Weiss said, is to identify illegal billboards and force companies to remove them.

Although the measure did not receive the required 12 votes necessary to pass on Wednesday, it is expected to receive approval next week.

The council also moved several proposed billboard regulations to its Planning Committee for consideration. One measure calls for a ban on new billboard construction, and another seeks to allow companies to build signs along freeways in exchange for the removal of existing billboards in neighborhoods.

Councilman Hal Bernson told council members that his staff is compiling a list of billboards in his district. Bernson said he will ask the city's Building and Safety Department to tear down any signs found to be illegal.

Although there is a growing consensus among council members to exert greater control over billboards, the industry's top lobbyist sent a letter to the board urging them to seek a compromise with companies instead of issuing a ban.

"Large and medium-size businesses are the primary clients of the outdoor advertising industry," lobbyist Ken Spiker Jr. told council.

"The hundreds of legitimate businesses that advertise are responsible for a substantial portion of the sales tax generated in the Southern California area and indirectly support thousands of Southern California jobs."

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