A federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction blocking Los Angeles from cracking down on as many as 34 "supergraphics," multistory vinyl signs that have been draped across the sides of buildings in violation of the city's billboard ban.
In a ruling last week, U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins ordered the city to stop prosecuting Insite Outdoor Works LA and World Wide Rush until the companies have a chance to challenge the city's outdoor advertising laws.
Collins said the plaintiffs showed that they had a likelihood of winning the lawsuit, which argues that the city's 2002 billboard ban violates the 1st Amendment. The judge also threw into question the legality of the city's policy of keeping billboards away from freeways.
The city's billboard rules are being challenged in more than a dozen lawsuits. Insite and World Wide Rush argued that, despite the rules prohibiting freeway billboards, at least five outdoor signs have been permitted near freeways at locations such as Staples Center.
"The plaintiffs here have persuasively demonstrated that, despite the city's interests in safety and aesthetics that support its ban on signs within 2,000 feet of a freeway, the city has permitted giant commercial billboards in these areas that directly undermine those interests," Collins wrote.
City officials have attempted to prosecute Insite and World Wide Rush over seven of their 34 supergraphics. The companies have supergraphics on boulevards such as Wilshire, Ventura, Sepulveda, Santa Monica and Pico.
Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, said the same judge recently sided with the city in a case involving illegal signs in Hollywood. Mateljan also said the ruling in the Insite case applied only to the 34 signs.
"Each billboard case raises somewhat different issues arising from somewhat different procedural backgrounds," he said in an e-mail, "so one has to review each case individually."