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Strict poster ban frustrating LA residents

January 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
It's not uncommon to see posters tacked on telephone poles throughout Los Angeles, but those posters are actually illegal and L.A. officials are strictly enforcing the law. This means some hefty fines for business owners, band promoters and residents.

Cooper Gillespie and her band advertised a couple of shows with posters on Silver Lake telephone poles in 2010. They then received a fine from the city a couple months later, and paid it. A year passed, and another one came.

"We thought this was weird that we were getting a fine a year later. So I called about it, and it turns out that the city can fine you for up to three years for any poster that you put up on a telephone pole," said Gillespie, a singer for the band Mad Planet.

She said her band has paid nearly $700 in fines so far.

"The three years isn't up yet, so who knows? Maybe we'll get another fine this year for a mistake that we made back in 2010," said Gillespie.

The fine and fee total more than $300 for the first poster, then $6.25 for each additional poster city workers tear down. That's for anything posted on a telephone pole, including signs for lost dogs, yard sales and band promotions.

City officials say they're working on a backlog because of limited resources and budget constraints. They say it's not only an issue of blight but also one of safety and environmental protection.

"It makes me angry," said Jeff Wolfram, owner of The Satellite.

Wolfram is bearing the burden of the bands that perform at his venue, even though he warns them not to advertise that way.

"I've paid every one. I've never gotten a band to pay yet," said Wolfram.

He has stacks of letters from the city - some of them coming to him more than a year later. He said he's paid about $5,000 in the last couple of years.

"We're in a recession, so we're not making a ton of money. We're struggling to survive every day, and then we just keep getting these letters that keep stacking up. The other day, I think I got six of them in the mail in one day, and it was over a year span of different bands - all in one day," said Wolfram.

City officials said the delay is often because it takes so long to track down the person responsible for putting up the posters. Promoters and bar owners say that's usually left to them.