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L.A. fire officials order removal of more supergraphics

At least 20 properties have been told to take down the multistory images because of fire hazards. More than 100 are still under investigation.

January 29, 2009|David Zahniser

Los Angeles city fire inspectors said Wednesday that they have ordered the owners of at least 20 properties to remove supergraphics, the controversial multistory vinyl or plastic images stretched across the sides of buildings.

Over the last month, 15 of the oversized images were removed after property owners were informed that their supergraphics posed a fire hazard, inspectors said. More than 100 other supergraphics are still under investigation.

City officials discussed the crackdown as they stood outside a six-story building with a supergraphic advertising Tropicana orange juice on National Boulevard, next to the 10 Freeway. That image must be taken down by today, they said.

"This would take a fire from the first floor to the top in no time at all," said Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Kurt Fasmer, pointing to the sign.

The news conference was called by Councilman Jack Weiss, a candidate for city attorney who recommended higher fines for property owners caught erecting unpermitted supergraphics. The maximum fine is $2,500 a day.

Other city attorney candidates contend that Weiss has been a poor steward in managing billboards. Lawyer Carmen "Nuch" Trutanich, who is running against Weiss, said the councilman moved far too slowly to win approval of a 90-day sign moratorium.

One awkward moment at Wednesday's event came when City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, who will be forced out by term limits June 30, crashed the news conference. Weiss refused to let him speak at the lectern.

Instead, Delgadillo spoke with reporters about his plan to put up a website that would allow residents to file complaints about outdoor advertisements posted after Dec. 26, the day that the temporary moratorium went into effect. Delgadillo also said he plans to prosecute National Investment Co., the owner of the building at 10801 National Blvd.

A lawyer for the company said the supergraphic would be removed Friday, but only because it was scheduled to come down that day. Attorney Joe Agapay said National Investment had not received an order to remove a second supergraphic on the building.

Agapay contended that neither sign constituted a fire hazard because the materials were approved by the California state fire marshal. But Fasmer said the city's sign law requires that supergraphic fabrics be tested by the city Department of Building and Safety, which did not occur at 10801 National.

After the news conference, Fasmer said he saw four more unpermitted supergraphics during his drive home.

"I'm assigning them to my inspectors," he said.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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