Man Who Removed Signs Accused of Theft
On March 15, Brad Waisbren collected signs advertising an open house in his Woodridge Street neighborhood and dropped them in the driveway of the open house, according to police.
Now the city attorney’s office has charged him with petty theft, alleging that Waisbren kept and refused to return some of the signs.
Waisbren’s trial, set for July 13 in Van Nuys Municipal Court, is expected to hinge on whether the signs were on public or private property. Waisbren says the signs were on the sidewalk and the parkway, which he thought were public property and therefore illegal.
He said his position is supported by a 1996 letter from Assistant City Atty. Anthony Alperin responding to one from Richard Close, president of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., who asked whether residents could remove illegally posted signs.
Alperin responded: “Signs that are illegally attached to public property in violation of [Section] 28.04 are subject to summary removal by city personnel. Those signs should therefore be treated as abandoned property and, as such, are not subject to criminal laws prohibiting theft of property.”
But, according to the city attorney, a parkway is not public property. Even though the city retains the right to oversee parkways, residents have some say about how the parkway in front of their homes is used. Residents have the right to place signs on the parkway in front of their houses, the city attorney said, but not on a public utility pole, sidewalk, tree or other city-owned structure on a parkway.
City public works officials said that the issue is complicated when it comes to parkways and sidewalks. “We do have instructions to this department from the City Council to allow the placement of real-estate signs with the permission of the abutting property owner,” said James Washington, chief street-use inspector in the city’s Bureau of Street Services.
The outcome of Waisbren’s court case may come down to whether the real-estate agent had that permission to place her signs on parkways.