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A Roost of Many Functions

Los Angeles has about 6,700 bus benches, city records show, and they’re handy for sunbathing, catnapping, people-watching and waiting--and waiting--for a bus.

Almost all the bus benches belong to one of two companies, Coast United and Norman Bench, according to chief street use inspector James Washington.

Bench owners pay the city about $100 for each new bench they place and $9 per bench a year in return for the right to collect advertising revenues. Advertising rates vary, but officials at Coast United say an average bench rents for about $23 a month.

Bus bench advertising is “either for real small guys, or it’s for guys who have enough money to be everywhere impactfully,” said Marc Feidelson, senior vice president at Dailey & Associates, a Los Angeles advertising firm.

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Perhaps the biggest bus bench advertisers of all are the graffiti artists who cover up some seats with their often indecipherable messages. Stanton Groman, vice president of Coast United, said the number of such scrawls has increased in the past year. “It’s some kind of fad now to go out and destroy public property with spray cans,” he said.

Bus bench users are taking all of this, well, sitting down. An informal survey recently found that most people waiting at bus stops have other things on their mind and would rather not talk about benches.

One woman, who declined to identify herself, said the benches are “in terrible condition. A lot of them are broken; there’s graffiti all over them; some of them are too close to the curb.”

But, as a bus approached her bench near Sunset Boulevard and Poinsettia Place, she added, “The benches are the least of your worries in this town.”

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