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LA Planning Commission Votes Against Legalizing Nearly 1,000 Illegal Billboards

In the battle over billboards, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission has just dealt a serious blow to those in favor of new "lenient" rules that have been moving through City Hall. The commission voted unanimously in favor of more stringent rules that include "takedown measures," which would require that, in order for new billboards to go up, some have to come down, says KPCC. The rules the commission approved will also deny amnesty to 942 billboards without permits because they either never existed or their permits are incorrect. The LA City Council has indicated in the past they'd wave those billboards through.

The commission is recommending, among other things, that billboard companies take down five square feet of traditional billboards for every square foot of new billboards that go up. With digital billboards, they're suggesting 10 square feet of old billboards come down. They also recommend that enforcement fall to to the LA Department of Building and Safety, which has been so far adopting a "hands off" policy and not referring billboard-related complaints to the City Attorney for follow-up.

If the commission has its way, new billboards would also be limited to a few "districts" around town where there's already "intensive business activity," like near LA Live in Downtown and Warner Center in Woodland Hills. The final say about billboards, though, is the LA City Council's, and they might decide to go against the City Planning Commission, though they'd have to get a "supermajority" of votes in order to do so.

Even if new, stricter billboard rules are approved, there might still be plenty of questionable billboards left around. Of those 942 billboards that could still receive amnesty (although the City Planning Commission doesn't want them to), the bulk do not have permits on record with the city (as opposed to having out of date or incorrect permits). While that might be because the permit never existed, it could also mean that their paperwork was lost by the city. In these cases, "The burden of proof to take them down shifts to the city," which would have to find a way to prove that they never had a permit, KPCC noted earlier this week. If those billboards can make it more than five years without their legality being questioned, they "enjoy the benefit of a state law that says they are presumed legal." Because getting the rules for signage figured out has taken so long (six years), many technically illegal signs have probably become technically legal, or at least have strong foundation to argue for their legality.
· No amnesty for unlawful billboards, LA city planning board votes [SCPR]
· Los Angeles Thinking About Legalizing 942 Illegal Billboards [Curbed LA]
· Why hundreds of billboards that violate LA city permits escape enforcement [SCPR]