Supergraphics firm proposes a deal L.A. is likely to refuse


A company that has installed multistory supergraphics throughout Los Angeles said Thursday it is willing to pay $12.5 million to save an expanse of the Hollywood Hills -- but only if the city agrees to settle a lawsuit over its existing signs.

Beverly Hills-based SkyTag, which has been locked in a legal fight with Los Angeles officials over signs in Westwood, Koreatown and elsewhere, said it would provide the money to preserve 138 acres near the Hollywood sign if the city allowed its contested supergraphics to become permanent.

Two council members who represent Hollywood dismissed the idea, saying unpermitted signs should not be used as a bargaining chip. “We’re not going to trade off beautification in one place for the visual decay of another,” Councilman Eric Garcetti said.

SkyTag has persuaded a federal judge to block Los Angeles from removing its supergraphics at 20 locations. The company appeared before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in December, arguing that the city’s ban on such signs is unconstitutional.

The images have infuriated neighborhood groups and made SkyTag so toxic politically that Garcetti gave back a $500 contribution sent to him by company President Michael McNeilly.

Nevertheless, SkyTag attorney Gary Mobley said his client would be willing to provide enough money to preserve the undeveloped land near the Hollywood sign, which once was an advertisement. As part of any deal, the company would like its signs at roughly 20 locations to remain, Mobley said.

“The idea is a win-win,” he said.

SkyTag is best known locally for installing huge images of the Statue of Liberty on Wilshire, Hollywood and Westwood boulevards. Many went up at the end of 2008, just as the council approved a temporary ban on new supergraphics. In August 2009, a permanent ban was passed.

Councilman Tom LaBonge, who also represents Hollywood, has aggressively publicized the effort to save the land. But he, too, said he was not interested in horse-trading, saying the sign shouldn’t be used to “solve someone else’s problem.”