AN ANGRY ANGELENO - A Decade of Bliss. On April 15, 2013, Dakota Smith (who now works for the LA Times) was the City Beat Reporter for the LA Daily News (LADN) and wrote up “Digital Billboards Shut Down Across Los Angeles”. She wrote “...as part of a judge's order to shut down the displays...in compliance with the LA Superior Court order...after the permits for the signs were deemed invalid by the courts last year. Clear Channel and CBS Outdoors originally put up 100 [digital] signs around LA as part of a 2006 backroom deal with the City [of LA]....mayoral candidates Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti...both approved the deal when they were on the [LA City] Council in 2006.”
Kevin Roderick, reporting for LAObserved dot com, quoted Dennis Hathaway, President of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight: “This is what we've been waiting for now for six years...” Me too. I used to have one of these disgusting monster TV Sets In The Sky facing the corner of 3rd and La Cienega from the former Coffee Bean lot opposite the Beverly Center. Flashing bright ads every few seconds at pedestrians and motorists alike. No, I don't want to live in Times Square! People complaining that these things are even flashing into their apartments, keeping them up at night. A literal headache to even walk down the street. The ultimate nuisance. LAist discussed the billboard industry's argument for reducing the number of static billboards so they can get a few highly lucrative digital billboards. Why are the digital ones so lucrative (and such a nuisance) that they would be willing to get rid of 10 static billboards to get just one digital billboard? Because they're flashing at you...you can't ignore them! I wouldn't even trade 100 or 1000 static billboards for a digital billboard...NO TRADES...NO digital billboards, period!
Of course, our sellout politicians are gonna keep trying. They've had a loophole in place for many years. There was a ban on new offsite billboards of any kind, ones that advertise goods sold elsewhere. But you could have new onsite billboards, ones that advertise goods sold onsite. So an office building near me put up a new billboard with ads saying that you could get a poster of the ad inside the building. There SHOULD HAVE BEEN a FULL BAN on ANY new DIGITAL billboards, offsite or onsite. I can deal with new static offsite billboards.
The Beverly Center Shows Us How Lucrative Digital Billboards Are.
Years ago, the Beverly Center Mall near me did a very expensive remodel costing hundreds of millions of dollars. I'd say it was a failure. It took several years, there was a maze of construction walls while they kept the mall open, a bunch of their stores went under. The goal was to attract very rich Middle Eastern and Asian Tourists. So, the new stores were Rodeo Drive type stores, the food court was shuttered, the cheaper popular restaurants like CPK were booted, expensive restaurants came in...then it was a ghost town. But what was making money? The Three (formerly static) Billboards facing Three Major Arterial Corners (Beverly Blvd and La Cienega, La Cienega and 3rd, and San Vicente and Beverly Blvd) were converted into Digital Billboards. With all the other Digital Billboards shut down, the Mall has made a fortune. Are the billboards advertising the mall's struggling commercial tenants? He11 no...at least almost not at all. They're advertising movies and streaming services; they're essentially offsite billboards. How did the mall get away with that? They created a fake business called The Room in the parking valet area where the Macy's Men's Store and Angler used to be...it was staffed with one person, you could buy gift cards to all the streamers, and you could use a computer to purchase movie tickets. All to legally justify their Three Offsite Digital Billboards...THAT is how ridiculously lucrative these things are...and since streamers (at war with each other for several years and burning Billions of dollars) can spend more than struggling clothing stores, f-ck the stores!
LA Metro Is Still Greedy and Evil Under Mayor Karen Bass
On June 8 of this year, I wrote a column with that title. You should google it and read it. LA Metro, which is ALWAYS SWIMMING in our tax dollars and always wants more, like a leech that is never full, has an annual budget of NINE Billion (with a B) dollars! Metro gets a HUGE bite of the Sales Tax EVERY TIME you buy something in LA County! They also got close to a Billion dollars of bailouts from the Federal Government during Covid, not that you would know it with the months of Sunday service 7 days a week during Covid that helped spread it through the Latino and Black communities. So, the Metro BOARD controls LA Metro. Historically, the Mayor of the City of LA has the most power at Metro because she gets a seat and ALSO gets to fill THREE OTHER seats.
Bass' picks are Katy Yaroslavsky, Paul Krekorian, and Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker. LA County Supervisor Lindsey Horvath is also on the Board, along with the other 4 County Supervisors. I know, Katy Yaroslavsky and Lindsey Horvath on the same Board...HUGE Red Flag!
The LA City Planning Commission (CPC)
The LA City Planning Commission is not truly independent. Its members are picked by the Mayor and serve at her pleasure. On September 14, David Zahniser of the LA Times wrote that “LA Mayor Karen Bass' appointees on the [CPC] endorsed a plan...for installing about 80 digital billboards on properties owned by Metro...” It was a unanimous 6-0 vote that supported “new electronic signs outside subway stations, along commercial boulevards, and next to freeway interchanges across the City” Now all of this “heads to the [LA] City Council for review”...OUR LAST CHANCE to Block Bass' Betrayal !
The CPC “turned down Metro's request to have...signs operate until 2 AM” (Bass was ok with that?), choosing 5 AM to MIDNIGHT instead. Zahniser tells us that “Metro's sign proposal is BACKED BY BASS...” [emphasis added] Another excuse mentioned in the article for going forward with this: “...advertising revenue would help Metro pay for...[Metro Rail's] Unarmed Ambassador program.” Yay! A lot more money for a stupid worthless program that doesn't make riders safe!
As You Can See, the Mayor Has All the Power. She also can try to veto whatever the City Council votes for. or sign it.
Mayor Bass Bringing Back Billboard Blight To LA Out of Sheer Greed
On January 31, David Zahniser and Rachel Uranga of the Times reported that the Metro Board approved a program that “would bring digital signs to. streets and freeways in Downtown, the Westside, the San Fernando Valley and other areas.” The BS excuse they can be used for “public safety alerts and information on bottlenecks” while “seven out of every eight images show advertising” The money “would be split 50-50 with the City of LA”.. We couldn't get a better percentage than ONLY 50 percent for all the nuisance suffering we will endure?? Sellout politicians selling us out on the cheap. Some of the signs are FORTY-EIGHT FEET wide! (According to Delilah Brumer, writing for LADN, some of the signs are NINETY-FIVE FEET tall) Mayor Bass voted for it. And they're gonna take down static billboards on ONLY a 2-1 ratio. What a HORRIBLE deal for the City of LA ! How about 100-1 or 1000-1. Of course, this is a horrible legal precedent that will OPEN UP THE FLOODGATES to regular offsite digital billboards that were turned off a Decade ago. Article goes on to discuss potential locations like Grand Central Market, Little Tokyo, the Japanese American National Museum, the Sepulveda Basin, Elysian Park, the Ballona Wetlands, the LA River, “parkland and natural habitat”...concern that “... light from a digital sign would...[cause] migratory birds to veer from their paths and disturbing the sleep patterns of other animals.” Never mind our sleep patterns. “Metro's environmental analysis...concluded that some of the new signs would have a significant and unavoidable effect on aesthetics, “substantially” degrading the visual character of the City's non- urbanized areas.” Who cares if we lose a bunch of Movie and TV shoots because Mayor Bass is a Huge Sellout. Speaking of that, the article says “some of the...signs would also have a significant impact on historic resources...” Who cares...it's all about the Dinero. The signs “would 'impede visibility of and thus distract from the...features” of those historic locations...”
Even the LA Times Editorial Board, Which Endorsed Bass for Mayor, Is Against This. And they're almost never right, but they're right about this! On February 6, the Times Editorial Board said: “...a plan...to put up...bright, blinking billboard-size digital signs...in communities across the City....Really, this is about MONEY.” [emphasis added] “Metro's billboard plan...needs [Bass' City] Planning Commission, [LA] City Council, and [Mayor Bass'] approval.”
The Double Whammy of Digital Billboards on BOTH Sidewalks AND In The Sky
The LA Times Editorial mentions that the City of LA ALSO “recently approved a program to add” 700 bus shelters with digital advertising! That's OK with the LA Times Editorial Board, but NOT ok with me! I'll be writing about that flying under the radar (Council Member Bob Blumenfield was involved) at a later date. So we're gonna have digital billboards ON OUR SIDEWALKS AND IN OUR SKY. LA Public Transportation, and lousy overpriced public transportation at that, used as an excuse to BURY US IN DIGITAL ADS. Utterly Reprehensible behavior by our local LA politicians.
TWO Horrible Precedents
Where is LA City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto to publicly say that BOTH of the Digital Billboard programs discussed in the last paragraph are horrible legally for the City...they severely weaken our ability to legally fight digital billboard blight in the future. Also, they're a horrible precedent for public transit. Think of the communities that agreed to suffer through Metro work for years to get Metro stations. Now they will get billboard blight to boot. Which communities are gonna agree to Metro Stations....or even Bus Shelters...if they know they're gonna be accompanied with digital billboard blight. For a City and County whose Public Transportation is a very expensive dumpster fire, should we be making it even harder going forward? Of course not !
Shame On You, Karen Bass. Shame, Shame, Shame On You!
(“An Angry Angeleno” is the nom de plume of Yuval Kremer, a former ballot candidate for both LA County Supervisor and LA Mayor. The opinions expressed by Mr. Kremer are solely his and not necessarily those of CityWatchLA.com.)