Leaders launch plan to reduce billboards

PACOIMA, Calif. Some city officials say with at least 8,000 legal billboards cluttering the city, more than most cities in America, it's not enough for the city to consider an ordinance that would reduce the number of new billboards going up or get tougher on stamping out illegal billboards.

"In my mind, (it) was good in terms of its enforcement opportunities and in terms of creating sign districts, but it did nothing to immediately eliminate signs that are blighting communities," said L.A. Councilman /*Richard Alarcon*/.

Alarcon said many of the existing billboards, legal or not, need to go, especially those concentrated in residential areas.

He is pushing a billboard reduction trade program that would allow billboard companies to voluntarily take down billboards in residential areas and place them instead in commercially zoned area designated by the city.

"The city sees this as an opportunity to get control of the signage problem in the city, to eliminate blight," Alarcon said.

Officials said basically, the program would reduce the number of billboards in the city by allowing advertising companies to put up bigger signs in designated areas, as opposed to a dozen smaller signs near homes.

Ray Baker of /*Lamar Advertising*/, the largest outdoor advertising company in L.A., says he likes the proposed program.

"The landscape of the city has really changed in the last 40 or 50 years. Areas that were commercial at that time are now residentially, primarily, zoned areas. It's our intent under time place and matter zoning, to really have the billboards and the signs in areas where they make the most sense to us," Baker said.

Officials with the Outdoor Advertising Association of America have publicly endorsed what they see as a proposed compromise between the city and Lamar Advertising.

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