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City Can Levy Fees on Billboard Firms, Court Rules

August 16, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles can collect fees from billboard companies to finance inspection of signs in the city, a federal appeals panel ruled Friday.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a federal judge's decision and ruled that the city's program does not limit free speech, as billboard companies had argued.

The Los Angeles City Council instituted the fee of as much as $314 for each of the city's 10,000 billboards last year to address concerns that illegal billboards were sprouting up across the city and creating blight.

The fees would pay for inspections to inventory billboards and ensure that they have permits and are legal.

But billboard companies sought an injunction, which was granted by a U.S. district judge.

Now that the 9th Circuit has ruled in the city's favor, City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo said, officials can begin inspections.

"We now have the tool we need to enforce the ordinance and begin the process of ridding our neighborhoods of illegal billboards," Delgadillo said in a statement.

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