The Los Angeles City Planning Commission on Thursday endorsed an overhaul of the city's billboard law that bans digital billboards in most areas of the city and puts restrictions on building-covering supergraphics.
The proposal, which was approved on a 6-3 vote, now goes to the City Council. Backers hope the council will vote by May, when before a moratorium on new billboards and supergraphics, enacted last December, is set to expire.
Over the last year, the city has seen a proliferation of digital billboards with changeable message signs and supergraphics, some installed by sign companies in violation of the moratorium as a direct legal challenge to the city. This has prompted a fierce backlash from homeowner groups and other activists who say the signs are dangerous distractions.
Sign companies have argued that laws limiting placement of billboards and signs violate the free-speech clause of the U.S. Constitution. They also argue that it's unfair to allow billboards in certain areas and not in others.
Under the proposal approved Thursday, new digital billboards and supergraphics would be mostly limited to a maximum of 21 special sign districts throughout the city, including Encino, Westwood, Koreatown and Boyle Heights. Wherever a new sign is put up, another one of equal or greater size nearby must be taken down.
Penalties for violators, which are now minimal, would be increased to as much as $50,000 per day for the largest signs.
In a victory for local retailers, the Planning Commission rejected a proposal to lump storefront signs in with the new billboard and supergraphics restrictions. These include signs on the facades of stores and such signs that advertise multiple tenants in a strip mall.
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