Appeals panel may strike down L.A. digital billboard deal

Neighborhood activists say digital billboards create blight and shine into yards and homes.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

A three-judge panel signaled Tuesday that it may strike down a deal that allowed roughly 100 digital billboards to go up in Hollywood, Venice and other neighborhoods, according to participants in the case.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal informed attorneys that it was leaning toward instructing a Superior Court judge to invalidate the permits for those existing digital signs, attorneys said. The signs were approved by the L.A. City Council in 2006 as part of a settlement agreement and have drawn protests from neighborhood activists, who say the billboards create blight and shine into yards and homes.

Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, called the tentative ruling “a vindication.”


“Those [digital sign] permits should be revoked, and they should be shut off,” he said. “And that’s exactly what the appeals court said in their tentative ruling this morning. That’s not a final ruling, but I didn’t see any indication that the judges were going to change” direction.

The lawsuit was brought by Summit Media, which argued that council members had given a sweetheart deal to two companies for digital signs that would generate $100 million annually.

Clear Channel Outdoor, which operates 79 of the digital signs at issue in the case, said it was disappointed in the court’s tentative ruling. “But we hope our oral arguments clarified key points to be considered in the final opinion,” said Jim Cullinan, the company’s vice president of communications.

A final decision is expected within 90 days. The tentative ruling was announced before oral arguments were presented to the panel, Special Assistant City Atty. Jane Usher said.

Councilman Paul Krekorian said that if the tentative ruling was finalized by the court, it would represent “a big step” toward reducing the number of billboards citywide. He said the council should move ahead immediately with a plan for regulating digital signs.