Billboard Measure Could Erase Thousands of Signs

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Up to 70 new billboards could be erected along freeways in Los Angeles in exchange for the removal of up to several thousand signs on city streets under a measure given initial approval by the City Council on Tuesday.

The plan proposed by Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas also calls for a permanent ban on all new billboards other than those approved for nonlandscaped industrial areas overlooking freeways under the exchange program.

The council voted 8-3 to refer the proposal to the Planning Commission, and a final decision by the council is not expected for several months.

"Today's vote was an important step that I believe will lead to removing the billboard blight from our communities," Ridley-Thomas said.

"The plan does not pander to the billboard industry," he added. "On the contrary, it creates a way to remove a significant amount of small, medium and large billboards in neighborhoods in exchange for a few industrialized zones along the freeways."

Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, who voted against the measure, called instead for further study of the billboard blight, concentrating on the removal of illegal billboards.

Miscikowski said she was reluctant to remove the city's 50-year-old ban on freeway billboards. If there has to be a trade, she said, it should be a few new billboards on city streets in exchange for the removal of many signs on those streets.

Ridley-Thomas' proposal includes a complex formula under which each new freeway billboard would be erected in exchange for the removal of 15 street signs of similar size or their equivalent in square footage. Ridley-Thomas said that because the street signs are presumed to be smaller than most new billboards, as many several thousand signs could be removed.

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