Updated 8:36 pm: The LA Weekly has the tale of a crusading grad student on a mission to force City Hall to reveal a mysterious inventory of the city's billboards. The database in question, apparently known as "The List," contains "addresses, ID locators and permits for 6,000 to 7,000 legal and illegal billboards," throughout LA. Because the city has had various versions of billboard bans in place over the years, not to mention a permitting system for legal billboards, the information in the database is sure to be complicated and possibly very revealing (LAW isn't shy about implying that City Councilmembers stand to face embarrassment--they think the list will show campaign donors are also prolific outdoor advertisers). It sounds like The List is at least thorough: "Inspectors spent three years comparing old permits to the size of actual billboards and driving city streets spotting ghost billboards whose owners have defied the law." While some estimates had put the number of illegal billboards at 4,000, a Department of Building and Safety inspector told the suing student, a USC geography student named Lisa Sedano, that it was really more like 1,000. Sedano has been seeking the database as part of her dissertation, but has only been rebuked by Building and Safety and the City Attorney's Office, which claim the database has not been completed. Sedano and anti-billboard activist Dennis Hathaway (of the website Ban Billboard Blight), however, have both been told by sources inside uilding and Safety that the database is complete. In response, Sedano is suing the city and Building and Safety.
Update: A rep for the City Attorney's Office writes: "The entire database is being offered (immediately) to Ms. Sedano so long as she pays the statutory fee that is authorized under the California Public Records Act. The Department of Building and Safety is asking for the fee because the list is still in draft form. So far, Ms. Sedano has chosen to pursue her litigation against the City rather than pay the fee to obtain the list. Separately, we informed theWeekly that, once the field teams have completed their follow up survey of the billboards in the City, which is expected in the next few months, the entire finalized database will be released to the public for free on the Department of Building and Safety website."
· USC Grad Student Sues Over a Deep L.A. Secret: Who Got Rich Off Illegal Billboards? [LA Weekly]