Pilots Hope to Head Off Bid to Stop Aerial Ads : Advertising: Efforts to ban airborne advertising have pilots angry. Despite contentions that the ads are ugly and noisy, pilots say curbs would be illegal.


The debate over aerial advertising above the county’s beaches is developing into a dogfight.

Banner pilots support a report to be delivered next week to the county’s Beach Advisory Committee saying the county may lack the constitutional authority to regulate banner ads.

“You shouldn’t say all of us should go because there is a loud one out there,” said Bob Marks of Torrance-based Marks Aerial Advertising. “If I flew mine down the beach and you weren’t looking, you wouldn’t know I flew by.”

Those annoyed with the aircraft, however, continue to press their case, arguing that there must be a way to cut down on the cascade of aircraft that advertise everything from happy hours to teen-age antiperspirants along the beaches.


“When I go to the beach I want to see sea gulls and pelicans and waves, not messages that say '$1.50 drinks at Joe’s Bar,’ ” said Manhattan Beach Mayor Bob Holmes, a member of the Beach Advisory Committee and a frequent beach-goer.

Mario Lopez of Star Ad Aerial said that he understands residents’ complaints but that his company, which operates out of Torrance Airport, flies low-horsepower aircraft to keep the noise down.

“The beach is our back yard,” he said. “We’ve always flown as quietly as possible. We’re out there to be seen, not heard.”

The matter was taken up in June by the beach committee, which makes recommendations to the County Board of Supervisors, after a Hermosa Beach sailor, Jim Lissner, spoke out against the noise and visual pollution produced by the flying billboards.


Another local resident, attorney Kenneth Kahn, complained to the Manhattan Beach City Council about the aerial ads, prompting the mayor to send a letter last month urging banner-towing companies to minimize noise and stay as far from homes as possible.

But Ted Reed, director of the county Department of Beaches and Harbors, said in a Sept. 4 report to the Beach Advisory Committee that the hands of local governments may be tied. He said meetings with county attorneys have led him to believe that an ordinance regulating aerial ads may infringe on the companies’ constitutional rights.

The federal government has jurisdiction over airspace, he said, and it is unclear whether local governments’ police powers, which extend three miles from the shoreline, apply in the air as well as on the water surface.

Any regulation adopted by the county would affect just Topanga Beach, the only beach that falls under the county’s jurisdiction. Coastal cities would have to approve their own separate ordinances, Reed said.


The advisory committee will receive the report and take public testimony on the issue at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at 2600 The Strand in Manhattan Beach.

Chip Post, an attorney and newly appointed Beach Advisory Committee member, said that billboards are not allowed at Yellowstone National Park or the Grand Canyon and that the beach should be considered just as much a national resource. The former Hermosa Beach councilman and city attorney said he supports banning aerial ads but might settle for lesser regulations, such as engine noise restrictions.

Lopez of Star Ad Aerial said the noisiest aircraft are high-horsepower planes pulling large billboards, many of them operated by out-of-state pilots who come to area beaches during the summer months.

Marks, who has run his company for the past 19 years, pulls banners touting Warner Bros. Studios, the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach and the new antiperspirant for teen-agers. He said that, despite the criticism, there are many who like the oceanfront ads.


Requests from companies continue to come in, he said, adding, “I’ve had people say it’s nice to see something break the monotony of sitting on the beach.”