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Limits sought on digital billboards

October 02, 2008|David Zahniser | Times Staff Writer

Responding to anger over a new digital billboard in his district, Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti called Wednesday for new rules limiting outdoor signs from displaying electronic messages in residential neighborhoods.

Garcetti proposed the new rules after the advertising company Clear Channel Outdoor last month switched a billboard in the 1700 block of Silver Lake Boulevard to digital images, infuriating his constituents.

The sign was changed as part of a legal settlement that Garcetti and his colleagues approved two years ago. In that lawsuit, Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor dropped their challenge to the city's billboard ban in exchange for permission to "upgrade" 840 of their signs to digital images.

Garcetti said the ramifications of the settlement weren't clear when the council voted. And he said some residential streets in his district have billboards less than six feet from houses, duplexes and apartment buildings.

"You don't want a flashing billboard spewing light into your bedroom every night, so I want the city attorney to look at that," he said.

Lobbyists for Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor would not comment Wednesday, saying they had not yet seen Garcetti's proposal.

Garcetti is one of several politicians responding to a backlash over the legal settlement -- and the city's ongoing inability to regulate outdoor signs. Earlier this year, Councilman Jack Weiss asked for new tools to limit the number of new super-graphics -- huge vinyl ads stretched across the exterior of buildings.

At the same time, however, council members have been proposing new billboard districts, including one in Koreatown and another next to the 110 Freeway.

The city Planning Commission will meet later this month to consider a temporary moratorium on new digital signs. But one billboard foe said that no new signs should be allowed until the city has a new set of rules.

"They should just stop right now and try to get things in order," said Dennis Hathaway, a spokesman for the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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