Fri, Jul

 Metro Digital Billboard Program Sparks Outcry: Citizens and Councilmembers Unite Against Potential Hazards and Deceptive Practices


METRO TCN - When the City considers reforms to increase transparency in government and diminish undemocratic practices in City Hall, we can all look back on the sad saga and advancement of the Metro Transportation Communication Network (TCN), Metro’s Citywide digital billboard program—a pet project of Council President Paul Krekorian for many years. When a Councilmember becomes Council President, a position the public does not vote upon, that person suddenly has great powers to expedite measures, hold back measures from ever being heard, punish his or her fellow Councilmembers for challenging a pet project, and even undermine support and funding of departments that do not lend their full support.

It is a testament to the citizens who have stood firm to protect the 2002 Sign Ordinance that they/we have been able to shield the public right-of-way from the blight and dangers that these digital signs represent—for over 20 years. However, the devious ways in which this program was advanced show just how devoted its promoters have been to deceive the public.

They didn't have the courage to have this program considered in the open and to give the public the opportunity to weigh in BEFORE the City entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with Metro. The fix was in before the program was openly considered. Even the program's title is misleading.

Sadly, one of Mayor Bass’ first votes as a member of the Metro Board was to approve the Metro TCN. This even though locations selected for billboards appear on the Metro Joint Development site for housing.

As a Metro Board member, in response to Mayor Bass’ challenge to Metro to identify surplus land for housing, Council President Krekorian said that Metro “must play a more active role” in addressing homelessness because it “directly impacts Metro’s core mission.”

At the Metro Board meeting following Mayor Bass's challenge to identify surplus land for housing: Councilmember Krekorian said that Metro “must play a more active role” in addressing homelessness because it “directly impacts Metro’s core mission.”

But then why is Krekorian spearheading the use of Metro properties that are slated for housing development so they can instead be used for billboard structures? Four of the TCN structures are slated for properties identified by Metro for housing. Interestingly, two of these Metro lots are in Councilmember Krekorian’s district, one is ED 1 eligible. Six more are in Council Districts 6, 11, 13, and 14.

In addition to failing to analyze for housing capacity, the TCN program seeks to place large changing digital billboards on a designated scenic highway (CD 10/Hutt), contrary to the City’s Mobility Element of the General Plan, and adjacent to the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve (CD11/Park).

Designated Historic Resource sites will also be negatively impacted by large changing digital billboards—even our cherished City landmarks: Union Station and Angels Flight Railway/Grand Central Market (CD14/de Leon). Two landmark bridges will be impacted: the Riverside-Figueroa Bridge (CD1/Hernandez), and the Olympic Street Bridge (CD14/de Leon).

Who could ever imagine that a city concerned about unnecessary injuries and deaths on our streets, a City whose Vision Zero program is sometimes referred to as Zero Vision, would contemplate placing digital changing advertising billboards on streets already identified as being in the City’s High Injury Network. And yet, that is exactly the case for NINE of the 13 non-freeway facing signs slated for LA City streets are located on the City’s High Injury Network. Go figure. They are non-freeway facing (NFF) signs 8 (CD14/de Leon), 9 (CD6/Padilla), 10 (CD6/Padilla), 11 (CD8/Harris-Dawson), 12 (CD10/Hutt), 13 (CD14/de Leon), 17 (CD11/Park), 18 (CD11/Park), 19 (CD13/Soto-Martinez).

And finally, in a City whose many neighborhoods are identified as PARK POOR, what could be the rationale for placing changing digital advertising signs within 500 feet of a park, open space, or wildlife preserve? The following list shows just which of these special places will be sharing their open space with Metro’s cavalcade of rotating advertisements:

FF-1 (CD14/de Leon) Los Angeles Plaza Park FF-5 (CD2/Krekorian) South Weddington Park FF-6 (CD1/Hernandez) Elysian Park and LA River FF-7 (CD1/Hernandez) Elysian Park and LA River FF-10(CD14/de Leon) LA River FF-11 (CD14/de Leon) LA River FF-18 (CD6/Padilla) Sun Valley Recreation Center FF-25 (CD6/Padilla) Sepulveda Wildlife Basin and Woodley Park NFF-4 (CD2/Krekorian) South Weddington Park and Campo de Cahuenga NFF-5 (CD2/Krekorian) South Weddington Park and Campo de Cahuenga NFF-10 (CD6/Padilla) Sepulveda Basin Recreation Area and Woodley Park

The issue of driver distraction and the potential for distracting numbers of drivers on our busy freeways and streets simultaneously has also not been adequately addressed. The rotation rate of signs, the impact of the program on the success of the STAP street furniture/transit shelter program and many other important related issues have not adequately been vetted. But the Council President would like this program approved and moved forward before year-end.

Recommendations made by the City Planning Commission in its Sept. 14th meeting were subsequently and significantly changed by PLUM in its November 7th meeting, and the program should return to the CPC. However, instead, following PLUM’s consideration Tuesday (item 22 on a very full agenda), the program has already been placed on the Council’s Wednesday agenda—the very next day. That does not allow for time for changes in PLUM and the careful consideration this program warrants.

The public may submit comments to the Council File 23-0392.

Already 27 Neighborhood and Community Councils have weighed in opposition along with 17 environmental and civic organizations and countless Angelenos.

If widespread opposition isn’t enough to stop the program, all these especially problematic signs should be removed. But that won’t happen unless enough voices are raised with individual Councilmembers and at PLUM and Council.

(Barbara Broide is a community activist currently serves as Co-President of the Coalition for a Beautiful Los Angeles (formerly Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight).)