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Los Angeles Thinking About Legalizing 942 Illegal Billboards

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Wait around long enough in Los Angeles and your illegal billboard may magically become legal. A stunning 942 billboards across the city—some of them unpermitted, others violating permit codes and other rules—could be given amnesty under a proposal that's already been endorsed by an LA City Council committee. Why would a City Council committee endorse such a plan? Because the city's lost a bunch of permit records and a state law makes illegal billboards legal if no one's cracked down on them in five years, says the LA Business Journal, so the city is worried it's going to lose an inevitable legal battle with billboard companies, and they figure, in the words of Councilmember Mitch Englander, "If we're not going to win, why spend valuable resources going after these signs?"

The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, which is in charge of inspecting billboards, unveiled an updated inventory last week of billboards whose permits have been lost. There were 546. (A previous list from 2012 had found 723 billboards with permits that simply couldn't be recovered.) Lost permits means one of two things: either the permits were never filed to begin with or the permits were filed and the city just lost track of them. Anti-billboard activist Dennis Hathaway "suspects at least half of these 546 billboards never had permits," but there's no way of knowing, because apparently the city loses stuff.

The remaining 396 billboards do have permits, but don't follow the rules of either their permits or city codes for billboards or both. The City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee and, of course, the sign companies, want these lawless signs grandfathered in; the Department of City Planning, though, wants the city to make these rulebreakers comply or face increased fines, some of which could go as high as $48,000 a day.

The decision over these signs could also affect other decisions down the road, especially when it comes to digital billboards, because, "In its report in the spring, the Planning Department recommended making the signs whose permits could not be found eligible for removal in exchange for digital billboard space." Oof.
· Positive Signs For Billboards [LABJ]
· LA Might Make It Unprofitable to Put Up Illegal Billboards [Curbed LA]