Los Angeles city commission wants fewer billboards

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles city officials are struggling with a growing problem: what to do about all those billboards. They're growing in number and growing in size.

The Los Angeles City Planning Commission has come up with some ideas.

More signs are competing for your attention like never before.

"Well I think we need regulation; we have way too man billboards in the city," said Armando "Junior" Reyes, an L.A. commuter.

L.A. City's Planning Commission made up of citizen appointees are ready to battle the status quo, including the powerful outdoor advertising lobby. Members say the city has failed to bring down hundreds of signs that are not permitted, or fine the people who put them up.

Councilman Mitchell Englander says part of the problem is that records for permits are not reliable.

"This is old information and it wasn't digitized at the time. These are literally oftentimes in shoe boxes," he said.

The billboard industry says electronic signs can provide a public service, potentially providing public safety messages, like finding hit-and-run drivers.

"A plate, vehicle description of the vehicle, we can quickly put that up on a board," said Englander.

Englander says the city can benefit by collecting fees from the advertiser that could help fund everything from police officers to repaving sidewalks -- an extra $25 million to $35 million a year.

What the citizen commission wants is fewer of all signs. For every square foot of a regular billboard, 5 feet of existing billboards must come down. For every square foot of electronic billboard, 10 feet would have to disappear.

That's too restrictive for outdoor advertisers and their supporters, including Ruben Gonzalez with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

"It's a negative to our economy; it leaves a lot of uncertainty; it leaves a lot of legal questions," he said.

What is clear is that the planning commission is requesting changes that elected officials have not endorsed before. It will take a supermajority -- 12 of 15 votes -- if council members want to weaken the commission's recommendations.
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