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Planners OK billboards and digital signs at L.A. Convention Center

Commission approves plan for 40,000 square feet of billboard space around the convention center despite a request from the new city attorney to delay the vote.

July 10, 2009|Phil Willon And David Zahniser

A plan for placing 40,000 square feet of billboards and other outdoor signs on the Los Angeles Convention Center was approved Thursday by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission, despite a request from City Atty. Carmen Trutanich to delay the vote.

Trutanich sent the commission a letter earlier this week saying he wanted two weeks to review the proposal, which would allow more than a dozen billboards to face the congested 10 and 110 freeway interchange on the edge of downtown.

Trutanich said in his inaugural address last week that he would not "roll over" to the outdoor advertising industry.

Officials said changes could still be made to the plan before the City Council casts a final vote.

The council voted last year to sell signage rights for the convention center to the owner and operator of Staples Center, Anschutz Entertainment Group.

Under the agreement, the entertainment group would pay the city at least $2 million a year during the next decade and also share a portion of the net advertising profits from the signs.

The proposal that came before the city's planning commission Thursday dealt with the size, location and features of the signs.

William Roschen, president of the planning commission, rattled off a list of concerns about the plan, saying it offered poorly designed signs along the freeway.

Roschen also said the convention center is a critical location that serves as a gateway to downtown Los Angeles.

"If we do a bad job on this building there will never be another commercial sign in this city," said Roschen, one of the panel's nine mayoral appointees.

Moments later, Roschen called for a vote on the plan anyway. That puzzled planning commissioner Spencer Kezios, who said there were too many questions about the sign proposal.

"We're rushing to judgment and I don't understand why," said Kezios, who cast the lone dissenting vote.

Barbara Monahan Burke of the Studio City Neighborhood Council said it was "appalling" that the planning commission would rush a vote that sets an important precedent for placing billboards near congested freeways and on public buildings.

"Why couldn't they wait to make sure they did it right?" she asked afterward.

The proposal was submitted by the convention center, a city agency, on behalf of the entertainment group.

City planners rejected one major aspect of the original proposal: Two massive signs that would cover portions of the convention center's landmark glass towers.

They also rejected plans for four digital billboards that would face drivers chugging through the 10 and 110 freeway interchange.

The proposal calls for the convention center to add 19 signs, two of them digital, to its South Hall, and six signs, two of them digital, to the convention center's West Hall, according to Senior Planner Kevin Keller.

Each digital sign would face Figueroa Street, he said.

In addition, two signs would be added to the convention center's concourse and a third digital sign would face Chick Hearn Court, Keller said.

The plan that heads to the council includes a requirement that the convention center offer a more unique design plan for the signs that face the freeways, not just a flat mass of billboards.

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phil.willon@latimes.com

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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