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Billboard Tax Proves to Be Unpopular With Developers, Billboard Companies

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DOWNTOWN: No surprise here: Representatives for developers, billboard companies, and the Motion Pictures Association of America showed up today at a Budget and Finance Committee meeting to rail against a proposal for a 12% excise tax on LA's 6,200 billboards and supergraphics. Complaints ranged from worries that this would hurt small businesses aka advertisers to concerns the proposal comes at a moment when the city doesn't have a final billboard ordinance. "Now is not the time to enact a new onerous tax," Damian Jones, who represents CBS Outdoor, Clear Channel, and Van Wagner, told the committee. Katherine Casey, lobbyist for developer JPI's Jefferson at Hollywood apartment project, warned of the "unintended consequences" of the tax, saying if not for Jefferson at Hollywood's supergraphics, the "affordable housing benefit [of the project] wouldn’t have been economically viable."

Dennis Hathaway, founder of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, spoke in favor of the tax, but said the proposal should have clear language that doesn't incentive billboards.

In the end, the committee members asked for more studies and analysis on the proposal, including information on how much these billboards bring in. Yes, no one knows how much the signs make, nor are the sign companies willing to cough up that information. Layne Lawson, Director of Public Affairs for Clear Channel Outdoor, was asked pointblank by City Council Bill Rosendahl how much an individual digital billboards makes. "I don't have that figure on me," Lawson replied. He was asked again, and again said he didn't know the answer. "Are we able to subpoena that number?" an angry Rosendahl asked.

Meanwhile, the measure has to be crafted by mid-November to make the March ballot--the tax would be put up for a vote--but given the number of questions raised about the proposal today by the committee, the city is going to have to work fast if it wants to make that deadline. [Curbed Staff]