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Hollywood supergraphic battle may be over

March 1, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A sign battle that landed a local businessman behind bars may soon be over. He has less than 24 hours to remove the giant ad wrapped around a building in the heart of Hollywood.The city of Los Angeles crackdown on the giant billboards known as supergraphics turned into a legal fight that ended in the arrest of Kayvan Setareh, a 49-year-old man from Pacific Palisades.

Setareh agreed to take the ad down in a deal worked out on Monday, and to have it down by Wednesday morning. In exchange, his bail was reduced from $1 million to $100,000.

"It doesn't justify $1 million. It doesn't even justify $100,000, but my client wanted to get out," said Andrew Stein, Setareh's attorney.

Defense attorneys believe that the city's attorneys are trying to use their client as an example with an unusually large bail amount for a misdemeanor case. Some critics believe this has everything to do with the Academy Awards being in town.

Overnight, workers rappelled down the side of an office building at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, removing a portion of the eight-story supergraphic that officials said was illegally placed.

"I think it's clear that the city attorney's office is taking an aggressive position on billboard and outdoor advertising," said Chuck Goldenberg, senior assistant city attorney. "The days when you could ignore the laws - they're done."

The massive wraparound sign advertising the movie "How to Train Your Dragon" was installed last week across the street from the Kodak Theatre, where the Academy Awards will be held on Sunday.

Setareh, the building's co-owner, was arrested at home and jailed over the weekend. He's accused of violating a city ban on unpermitted supergraphics. The city attorney's office said he had been warned not to put up any of the signs.

Last year, the Los Angeles City Council approved an ordinance banning supergraphics, saying the enormous signs distract drivers and could fall and injure people if they're not properly installed. Critics also say they simply do not look good on the streets.

"It's a really beautiful building, and as someone who is an architect and interested in sort of the look and appearance of our city, I think it sends the wrong message, maybe that we're more concerned about money and consumerism," said Bryce Lowery of Los Angeles.

However, other residents said they don't understand why the signs are being singled out.

"This is what it's about. This is what made Hollywood Hollywood," said Kimeyo Daniels of Los Angeles. "This is what everybody comes here for. The lights, the glamour, the excitement, and to be honest with you, I don't see it hurting nothing."

Setareh's arraignment was postponed until March 30.