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L.A.'s ban on new digital billboards and supergraphics is upheld

A federal judge denies Liberty Media Corp.'s request for an injunction to block the city's newest outdoor advertising law.

September 29, 2009|David Zahniser

A federal judge refused Monday to halt enforcement of the Los Angeles City Council's newest outdoor advertising law, which bars the installation of new digital billboards and multistory supergraphic signs across the city.

In a tentative ruling, U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins said Liberty Media Corp. had failed to show a likelihood that it would prevail with its procedural arguments against the month-old ordinance.

Liberty had asked Collins to issue an injunction blocking enforcement of the new law and forcing the city to allow 16 new signs. One billboard foe had feared that a ruling against Los Angeles would have had greater ramifications, opening the door to scores of new signs by other advertising businesses.

"My feeling was that if she ruled in favor of Liberty Media, the sign companies would be lining up outside the Building and Safety Department to get permits," said Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight.

City officials said all 16 signs sought by Liberty were supergraphics, which can cover the entire side of a building.

Los Angeles is fighting more than 20 legal challenges from the billboard companies opposed to regulation of outdoor advertising. The council approved a temporary sign ban in December, hoping to buy time to craft an ordinance that would withstand a court challenge.

In the weeks after that vote, Liberty challenged the moratorium, saying that exceptions had been made for "favored high-profile developments," including the W Hotel in Hollywood. The council responded in August by passing a permanent sign ban as advised by the city attorney's office.

Soon after, Liberty argued that the council had violated the state's open meetings law and its own City Charter by enacting the law. Collins disagreed. "None of these claims has merit," she wrote.

Although it failed to secure a preliminary injunction, Liberty still has an opportunity to make a case against the old moratorium and new ordinance, Deputy City Atty. Michael Bostrom said.

Nevertheless, Bostrom was pleased with the tentative ruling.

Liberty's attorney, Andrew Kugler of the Mayer Brown firm, had no comment.

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david.zahniser@latimes.com

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