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Hollywood's DragonGate: Long Night, Long Wait for Sign to Come Down

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The cherry picker arrived at the Hollywood and Highland site by midnight, but a faulty part in the machine temporarily delayed removal of the supergraphic
Blame a broken cherry picker, but it was well past 1:00 am today that work on removing the illegal DreamWorks supergraphic at Hollywood and Highland began, an early morning job that necessitated numerous cups of coffee (and at least one plate of take-out eggs from nearby Mel’s Diner) for the three men involved in overseeing the sign's removal. And those three men, all key players in this latest sign battle, would be: David Berger, special assistant to the City Attorney, who defended the high bail amount and dismissed speculation that by arresting Kayvan Setareh, the city was making an example of the Hollywood businessman ("It's not true we're making an example of him. He may be the first, but he’s not the last"); Andrew Stein, Setareh's attorney, who said his client just got caught up in the city's sudden sign crackdown (“My client had bad luck. He put up the sign at an inappropriate time for himself?we don’t think he did anything that was against the law”); and Al Gonzalez of Los Angeles-based sign installation company Kingsize, who refused to talk about whether he knew the How to Train Your Dragon movie sign was illegal when he put it up last week (“I can’t discuss this because we’re not involved ”), and who, on the advice of Stein, asked that no head-on photos be taken of himself or his seven-person crew as they removed the sign. Setareh, who'd been released on bail earlier in the day, wasn't around, and likely was resting at his home in Pacific Palisades. Asked to describe his client's mental state following his arrest, Stein replied, "Stunned."

Meanwhile, more details emerged about Setareh's weekend in jail. After being arrested Friday night, Setareh spent three nights in jail, released only after the city attorney's office crafted a legal agreement that saw Setareh agree to remove the sign in return for a reduction in his bail, which was originally set at $1 million.

According to Stein, who said he knew the bail would eventually be reduced by the judge, Setareh simply waited it out, opting to spend the weekend in jail rather than pay the $100,000, the ten percent fee of the $1 million that would release him.

“I advised the family to wait. I said, you don’t want to spend $100,000 for 60 hours.” Stein also thought Setareh could handle the jail time because he wasn't put in LA County jail, but in LAPD custody in downtown, a far more comfortable situation. “The [LAPD] knows he’s a 59-year-old little Jewish Persian man. He lives with his parents. They’re not going to put him in a jail with gangsters.” (*UPDATE, the Sheriff's web site put him at 49 years of age.)

Setareh will be arraigned in late March for three misdemeanors related to the installation of the sign, and if found guilty, could face a total of 18 months in jail, six months for each misdemeanor, according to Berger. Berger, who says Setareh's high bail amount was set in conjunction with the public safety threat posed by the graphic, says the crackdown on illegal signage will continue. "We are aware of other locations." With the criminal charges filed, and more apparently coming, is it "the dawn of a new day" in terms of sign regulation, as the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight's Dennis Hathaway told the Los Angeles Times today?

Perhaps. On Hollywood Boulevard last night, the garish signs and supergraphics in this section of the neighborhood seemed more prominent than ever. "Why is that one legal, because it's part of the building?" Stein asked Berger at one point, gesturing to a billboard atop developer CIM Group's Hollywood & Highland mall. And directly across the street, an obviously illegal supergraphic atop 6800 Hollywood Boulevard--a wrinkled ad for Asics (seen below), suspiciously put up in the last week, just in time for the Oscars' cameras--was debated by the group. "They did a terrible job," said Gonzalez, of the installation.


Another illegal supergraphic on a building located directly across the street from the Hollywood and Highland building

Meanwhile, if Setareh's arrest generated headlines, and, among those who have long waited for the city to get its act together in terms of sign regulation, hope, the city attorney's office has a bigger culprit than Setareh to land over the Hollywood and Highland supergraphic, namely the sign advertising company that put together the whole deal. "We know DreamWorks, we know [Setareh]" said Berger. "But we don't know who arranged this. That's the missing part of the puzzle." Attorney Stein says his client knows nothing about who arranged the deal, and that the city attorney's office should subpeona the film company to get their records rather than come after Setareh.

But the immediate matter is getting the sign down. By 2:00 am today, Stein took off, while Berger, a former Deputy District Attorney, stayed around to document the process of the sign's removal by taking photos. A mechanic was said to be en route to the site to fix a part on the broken cherry picker, which had been dropped off from San Diego earlier in the night. Just before Stein left, Gonalez's crew began dismantling the sign by hand, rappelling down the building to begin the process of taking apart the graphic's panels. UPDATE: Here's video of the rappelling. According to Gonzalez, the sign is attached via wires to numerous bolts, which are are drilled into the building. He declined to say how many bolts are in the 1927 building, but it's expected that the number could be in the hundreds. Work was scheduled to go until at least 8:00 am this morning and resume tonight.

· Jailed Over Illegal Supergraphic, Business Owner Awaits Arraignment [Curbed LA]
· Bail Reduced, Setareh Agrees to Take Down Sign [Curbed LA]