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‘Monstrous’ San Pedro entry billboard coming down after years of complaints

A photo taken up high on a metal structure shows people on the ground.
A crane collapsed during the removal of a billboard in San Pedro, injuring two workers on July 18, 2023.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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Nearly a decade ago, former Los Angeles City Councilmember Joe Buscaino began his battle to topple a massive billboard located just outside the entrance to San Pedro.

This week — years after the city acquired the land on which the commercial billboard stands and sued its owner — work began to finally obliterate the long-fraught sign structure.

“Driving into town, we always felt that first impressions are everything,” Buscaino said in a recent interview. “Our welcome sign should not be a monstrous billboard.”

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Buscaino — who once called the billboard an “ungodly sight,” according to the Daily Breeze — said he was thrilled to see progress start on its removal Monday, calling it a win for San Pedro.

Foes of Metro’s plan say the proposed digital signs — many of them 48 feet wide — will distract drivers, making the city’s streets even more perilous.

Jan. 31, 2023

The massive billboard, located on North Gaffey Street at the end of the 110 Freeway, had for years rivaled the “San Pedro” monument sign that adorns the adjacent pedestrian bridge and marks the entrance to the community.

“This is a great day for the community,” Councilmember Tim McOsker, Buscaino’s successor, said in a statement Monday. “The San Pedro residents came together, organized and persevered. ... This is something we’ve been working on for decades and I’m pleased that today we delivered it.”

But as McOsker, Buscaino and neighbors gathered Tuesday along the nearby pedestrian overpass to celebrate the long-awaited billboard removal, something went horribly wrong.

“We heard a big bang,” McOsker said. “That crane just came down.”

There had been three tall cranes working on the project, he said, one of which appeared to completely crack along its long arm.

Two of the workers on the project fell almost 20 feet when the crane toppled, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. Both were transported to a hospital, officials said, though the extent of their injuries were not known. McOsker, who called 911 after the incident, said both workers were conscious and responsive.

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A bridge, a long arm of a crane and some people.
Two workers were injured July 18, 2023, while using a cherry picker to dismantle a billboard at the terminus of the 110 Freeway and Gaffey Street in San Pedro.
(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

“I’m so sorry for these workers, but I will say, I’m glad that we were there,” McOsker said. “We had resources there that could respond more quickly to the injuries.”

McOsker said no city employees were affected by the accident, as the team working on the billboard was privately contracted by Regency Outdoor Advertising, which owns the billboard. Regency Outdoor did not respond to questions about the incident.

“We’re very appreciative of these construction workers, I hope and pray for a good prognosis for recovery,” McOsker said. “Worker safety is really, really important.”

Members of McOsker’s staff had initially estimated the billboard would be completely removed by Wednesday, but McOsker said he wasn’t sure how this accident would affect progress.

“The highest priority is the health and safety of these workers,” he said. “We will address that after.”

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Since his first days in office in late 2022, McOsker has sparred with Regency Outdoor Advertising. Regency’s lease for the location expired at the end of last year, almost seven years after L.A. city officials approved purchasing the underlying lot.

When the company didn’t respond to notices and letters to vacate the property, McOsker and other L.A. officials filed a lawsuit in February seeking to boot the billboard.

“I think that did have the effect of getting their attention,” McOsker said in a recent interview.

Regency Outdoor Advertising did not respond to requests for comment from The Times.

The San Pedro Fish Market and Restaurant will close its location in the Ports O’ Call Village in March. The restaurant plans to remain in San Pedro.

Feb. 10, 2023

McOsker said the billboard has obscured the view onto city property, especially the nearby pedestrian bridge, which he characterized as a potential safety concern.

“I have followed this saga for literally years,” McOsker said. “Here we have a small, local community that is standing up to the big, outside, billionaire Goliath. We don’t want this sign here, it’s not safe, it’s not attractive.”

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