A bill that would clear the way for billboards to be erected near Staples Center and the Los Angeles Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles was approved by the state Senate Tuesday.
AB 1373, which now heads to a concurrence vote in the Assembly on Friday, would exempt a 1-mile strip in the downtown Los Angeles area from a state law that restricts most billboard advertisements near freeways. The zone being proposed for the exemption is bounded by South Figueroa Street, Eighth Street and the Harbor (110) and Santa Monica (10) freeways.
The legislation would let the city of Los Angeles decide what the regulation for the billboard signs in that area would be, including whether they can be digital, according to Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, the bill’s author.
Santiago added that the billboards in that area would still need to meet safety standards set by the federal government and must not result in a loss of federal dollars.
Santiago said the bill’s “intent” is to “help spur development in downtown Los Angeles by giving a revenue tool to developers.”
The idea to use billboards as an incentive was brought to him by the developer of Metropolis, a project that includes several residential towers and a hotel in that area, Santiago said.
Santiago said billboards are allowed in the L.A. Live area, which is part of the area being proposed for the exemption, and that strategy has yielded results and transformed the economic prospects in that area in a “positive” way.
The limited area selected for the exemption is well-suited for billboards, unlike other parts of his district, such as Boyle Heights, he said.
“I wouldn’t support this in other areas in my district, but in this particular area, where it has already brought in investment … it works,” Santiago said.
The bill is opposed by the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, members of which wrote in an online blog post that the billboards “would greatly increase visual blight and clutter in the area, as well as present a potential distraction and hazard to motorists on one of the most heavily-traveled sections of freeway in the city.”
“There is no measurable benefit to the people of Los Angeles from this bill, but an arguable detriment in the proliferation of large, commercial ads in the visual landscape of the city,” according to the coalition.
“The only real benefit is to the developer of this project now under construction, in the form of revenue from advertisers seeking a captive audience of freeway users.”
The legislation is also opposed by the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, the Endangered Habitats League, the Firearms Policy Coalition and Scenic San Diego.
–City News Service