Calif. Judge Hits ‘Off’ Switch on Digital Billboards

Apr 15, 2013 12:17pm
gty digital billboards kb 130415 wblog Calif. Judge Hits Off Switch on Digital Billboards

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A judge ordered two billboard signage companies in Los Angeles to turn off the electricity in their digital signs by today, a victory for residents who said the signs constituted blight.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Green in a court order on Friday gave CBS Outdoor, Inc. and Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. until 5 p.m. April 15 to turn off about 80 signs. Of the signs, 67 are owned by Clear Channel Outdoor.

The two firms set up about 100 digital signs in the Los Angeles area as part of a deal in 2006 with the city. A third sign company, Summit Media, sued the city, saying the two billboard companies were given special treatment.

Timothy Alger, attorney for Summit Media, said he is “absolutely pleased” with the ruling.

“We’re glad the signs will finally been turned off,” he said. “It took five years to get to this point, but we are glad the judge ruled the signs will be turned off.”

In February, the California Supreme Court declined to hear the case and the permits were ordered invalidated. The city attorney’s office was awaiting instruction about the removal of the signs from the court as the companies sought new legislation from the City Council to permit additional digital billboards, the Los Angeles Times reported. The newspaper reported the remaining signs will be discussed in a court hearing on Tuesday.

Alger said he expects the judge will order the other 20 or so signs in the city to be turned off during the hearing tomorrow. Summit Media’s next step is to ask the judge to tear down the signs, Alger said.

“I think the judge thinks the first step is to turn them off,” Alger said.  ”We think the first step is to tear them down – the point being they were erected in violation of the law.

A spokesman for Clear Channel, David Grabert, vice president of marketing and communication, said the company will follow Judge Green’s decision and turn off their 67 signs, but the sign structures will remain.

“However, we will take all legal steps to renew operation of our signs in order to serve our customers and the community,” he said in a statement. “Turning off these signs, even temporarily, hurts the community and the economy of the City of Los Angeles by eliminating a vital public safety and community resource and a valuable effective advertising tool for local and national businesses. Going forward, Clear Channel Outdoor is committed to working collaboratively with city leaders and stakeholders to establish a legislative solution for digital signs.”

“This is what we’ve been waiting for now for six years,” Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, told the L.A. Times. “I’m going to be out there personally at 5 o’clock to watch it go dark.”

The electronic signs have been popping up all over the country. The coalition claims they’re a menace to navigation.

“There are three full-sized digital billboards within a half block of this heavily-trafficked intersection of Westwood and Santa Monica Blvds. in L.A. The billboards change messages every eight seconds, but because they aren’t synchronized the changes could appear much faster to motorists who have at least two billboards in view at any given moment as they pass through the intersection. Depending upon a driver’s orientation, the brightly-lighted billboards also form a backdrop for the traffic signals,” the group says on its website.

 

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