Prospects for Tougher Sign Code Appear Dim

Times Staff Writer

Advocates of strict rules say approval of citywide limits has hurt chances for an Encino-only ordinance.

Prospects for getting tougher sign controls for Encino--and eventually other San Fernando Valley communities--appear dim following the Los Angeles City Council’s approval of citywide sign rules, advocates of stiffer regulations say.

“I don’t feel very optimistic,” said Cindy Miscikowski, chief deputy to Councilman Marvin Braude, a sign-control advocate whose district includes Encino.

The citywide law adopted May 27 restricts the location of most new billboards to 600 feet from each other, except at intersections, where as many as four billboards are permitted.


Braude wants to ban all new billboards from a 3 1/2-mile stretch of Ventura Boulevard that passes through Encino. He is not seeking to remove existing billboards; that would be too costly, since state law prohibits cities from banning billboards already in place without compensating sign companies.

Existing Signs Exempt

Critics of the citywide law, which goes into effect July 5, complain that it will do nothing to reduce existing sign clutter. The new ordinance does not affect legally erected existing signs.

In contrast, the proposed Encino law would force the removal within five years of about 600 of the 1,500 smaller signs now on Ventura Boulevard. Under existing law, the city would not have to reimburse business owners for these mostly storefront signs.


The council already has approved tougher sign laws for different parts of the city, including San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Warner Center and Westwood.

No date has been set for the planning committee’s consideration of the proposed Encino sign law. An existing moratorium on signs that do not conform to the proposed Encino law expires on Aug. 5.

The billboard industry has waged an intense fight to kill the proposed Encino law because it could “lead the way” to a ban on new billboards all along Ventura Boulevard, which Miscikowski terms an extremely lucrative area for the industry.

Indeed, homeowner groups throughout the Valley see Encino as the test case for their efforts to get tougher sign controls for their own areas.


Tough Fight Seen

Supporters of the proposed Encino law, however, concede they face an uphill struggle.

“The sign industry is too powerful,” said West Valley Councilwoman Joy Picus, who supports the proposed Encino law.

The industry, which has been a large campaign contributor to council members, has been successful in killing efforts to ban billboards.


Pilar Perry, assistant Southern California regional manager for Foster & Kleiser, a major billboard company, said the industry opposes the Encino ordinance as too restrictive.

Perry disagreed with homeowners’ objections that the citywide law does no good. She contended that the law effectively prohibits additional billboards in Encino because there is no room left.

In fact, Perry said, the new law could lead to a reduction in the 33 billboards now there. She said the company frequently must take billboards down because property on which they sit is developed or sold. Under the citywide ordinance, a new billboard could not be put up unless it meets the spacing requirements, she pointed out.

Councilman Howard Finn, chairman of the influential planning committee, also has been cool to the idea of a separate sign law for Encino or any other area. He said separate sign laws would create an “enforcement nightmare” for city inspectors.


Finn has said he wants to see the effect of the citywide law before implementing tougher measures. Nevertheless, he said, he will consider the proposed Encino law with “an open mind.”

Although just about everyone believes the proposed Encino sign-control law is in trouble, Gerald Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino, does not.

Initiative Drive Begun

Silver said the council’s refusal to approve stronger citywide sign controls has so infuriated homeowners from all over Los Angeles that they are organizing to try to qualify an initiative banning billboards citywide. They need 69,516 voter signatures to qualify the initiative for the April, 1987, ballot.


“The Encino concept is now going to be thrust on the entire city,” Silver said.

If the petition drive catches fire, Silver predicted, the council will rush to approve the Encino law “to appease us,” just as it recently tried to block another initiative backed by homeowners to sharply reduce commercial development.

In that case, as support for the slow-growth initiative picked up steam, the council rushed through a measure aimed at accomplishing many of its goals but giving the council more discretion over development. The initiative’s sponsors, Braude and Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, have complained that the council’s measure has too many loopholes, and they have continued to push their measure, which last week qualified for the November ballot.

But, Silver said, even if the council approves the Encino law, he intends to push the initiative.


“I’ve given up on the council,” he said.