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Ban on new billboards met with defiance

January 5, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A ban on new billboards and outdoor signs remains in effect in the city of Los Angeles. But some folks aren't letting the law keep them from showing their defiance.Spend any time in Los Angeles and you'll start to feel as if LA stands for "Lots of Ads."

They are everywhere, but none so blatant as the huge electronic billboards and the so-called "super-graphics," advertisements printed of giant swathes of plastic or vinyl that wrap around buildings. They're easy to spot and for some folks who live near them, very easy to hate.

"I think they're visual blight," said Cindy Chvatal-Keane, Hancock Park Homeowners Assoc. "It's just more and more and more and more, and there doesn't seem to be any end in sight."

That feeling has been made abundantly clear to Los Angeles officials and the L.A. City Council last month passed a three-month ban on new outdoor advertising, but huge signs are still going up.

"In the days since the mayor signed that law, people have been flagrantly violating it," said L.A. City Councilman Jack Weiss. "I'm calling on the city attorney to go after those people and throw the book at them."

L.A. City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said his office has been doing just that, filing a handful of charges last week against companies that have ignored the temporary ordinance.

"This ICO, this Interim Control Ordinance, has been a motivation for some of these guys to try to sneak in a billboard," said Delgadillo. "We were able to catch three sites last week. We'll catch more."

Michael McNeilly may be one of those on the city's hit list. He's the man behind the Statue of Liberty super-graphic that went up after the ban was enacted. While his work is pretty conspicuous, McNealy himself is apparently pretty shy. He agreed to an interview for this story, but then backed out at the last minute.

McNealy sent ABC7 an e-mail, stating: "The murals of the Statue of Liberty are an artistic and political expression protected by the First Amendment."

The temporary billboard ban runs out in mid-March 2009. By then city officials say they hope to have new regulations in place that will stand up to any constitutional challenge. That is when residents will find out if the politicians really do want to scale back these massive ads or if the moratorium was just window dressing.


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