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Silver Lake billboard defaced in protest over illegal tree trimming by sign company

Silver Lake billboard defaced in protest over illegal tree trimming by sign company
A banner was placed overa billboard above El Condor restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake. Activists have criticized the billboard company, Outfront Media, for cutting backseveral trees without city permits. (David Zahniser / Los Angeles Times)

Someone appears to have struck back at the billboard company at the center of a controversy over illegally trimmed trees in Silver Lake.

Last month, residents denounced the advertising firm Outfront Media for cutting back several street trees that had blocked views of its billboard. The pruning job, performed without the required city permits by a company hired by Outfront, was so severe that three of the nine trees will need to be replaced, activists said.

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Outfront Media says it fired the landscaping company for failing to obtain permits.

But activists have continued to criticize Outfront, and on Sunday the company's rooftop sign had been altered to show an unauthorized message: "Outfront Media HACKED our TREES so you can read this billboard."

It was not clear who was responsible for the protest message, which appeared on a banner strapped to Outfront Media's billboard. The banner greeted runners in the Los Angeles Marathon over the weekend — and covered up an ad promoting the race.

An Outfront Media executive said his firm had not authorized anyone to change the billboard atop the El Condor restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, next to Sunset Triangle Plaza.

"We don't condone trespassing or vandalism," said Ryan Brooks, the company's senior vice president of government affairs.

Brooks said his company was still trying to come to a resolution with the city over the unpermitted tree work. However, he declined to say whether he agreed with residents who call the pruning a "hatchet job."

Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, who represents the area, has called the pruning an act of vandalism — saying three trees were "butchered" and six poorly trimmed. Several of O'Farrell's constituents have asked for the city to file a criminal case against Outfront Media.

By Monday, the protest banner was gone. Silver Lake resident Bobby Peppey, after checking out the sign, said the nearby trees experienced a much worse fate than Outfront Media's billboard.

"Their sign looks exactly the same as it did before the banner was flung over it," Peppey said. "But the city's trees are still in dire condition after ... this act of vandalism."

Follow @DavidZahniser for what's happening at Los Angeles City Hall.

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