A state appellate court has upheld Los Angeles’ billboard ban, reversing a lower court decision in favor of Lamar Central Outdoor, which was seeking to overturn the ban.
The ruling, which was released Thursday by a three-judge panel of the Second Appellate District, rejected Lamar’s claims that the city’s 2002 ban on new billboards violated the right to free speech guaranteed in the state constitution. The panel cited other court rulings that had upheld the constitutionality of this and similar billboard bans.
In 2002, the City Council voted to ban new “offsite signs,” which are defined as signs advertising products or services not available at the sign’s location. The council cited complaints over sign clutter and numerous unpermitted billboards. New billboards were allowed in specially-designated sign districts.
Lamar, which sought to build 45 digital billboards in several Los Angeles neighborhoods, sued, saying it was unconstitutional to regulate signs for their content, since that violated free speech provisions of the state constitution.
A trial court sided with Lamar in a November 2014 decision, prompting the city to file an appeal.
Similar challenges to the Los Angeles law were filed on grounds that it violated the free speech clause in the U.S. constitution, though those were rejected in federal court.
At a press conference Thursday afternoon following release of the appellate court decision to uphold the city’s billboard ban, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said, “This is a landmark ruling not only for Los Angeles but for the entire state of California. This ruling heads off what would have been an uncontrolled avalanche of new billboards across Los Angeles.”
Also reacting to the ruling, longtime anti-billboard activist Dennis Hathaway said, “The city's ban on new billboards has now been upheld in both state and federal court in multiple cases, and I think it’s time for the billboard companies to abandon their strategy of challenging it in order to get what they want.”
Lamar’s attorney Michael Wright said Thursday that the sign company has not made a final decision on whether to petition the state Supreme Court to review the ruling.
“We are not happy to see this ruling and we believe the decision is mistaken,” Wright said. “But we are still evaluating our options.”
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