Is LA Trying To Become Sao Paulo?

Gail Chiasson, North American Editor

If it’s not mobile billboards or digital signage, it’s supergraphics! It seems Los Angeles wants to ban ‘em all.

Last August, the City Council approved a citywide ordinance prohibiting the installation of new digital billboards and supergraphics, which are stretched across the sides of buildings.

In a recent episode, the Los Angeles City Attorney had a property owner arrested on a Friday night and held on $1,000,000 bail, after charging him with installing an non-permitted supergraphic.

Bail is designed to make sure the accused shows up for trial, with a $1,000,000 bail usually reserved for such serious felonies as rape and murder. For misdemeanors, people are often released on their promise to appear.

Setting the bail so high, and arranging the arrest for a Friday night, almost certainly assures that the accused property owner spent three nights in jail on the weekend. A LA-based lawyer told us this smacks of an abuse of a prosecutor’s discretion, and possibly an abuse of legal process.

The businessman property owner was accused of posting an eight-story movie advertisement on an office building at one of Hollywood’s busiest intersections. He was accused of three misdemeanor city code violations, two of them related to the city sign law.

The arrest came less than a week after the City Attorney filed a separate lawsuit involving more than a dozen other supergraphics scattered across the city. Just days after that lawsuit was filed, workers wrapped the new ad around the face of a 1928 office building on corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, a major tourist destination along Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. The accused apparently has an ownership interest in the building.

City officials claim that unpermitted supergraphics pose a threat to public safety because the huge sheets of vinyl can fall onto cars and pedestrians if they are not attached properly. The supergraphic covers many windows, possibly making it difficult for firefighters to enter during an emergency, and, because the sign lacks permits, building inspectors have not ensured that it is safely attached to the building,

City officials also apparently think that the unpermitted image – an advertisement for the film How to Train Your Dragon and valuable in terms of advertising space – was timed to coincide with the 82nd annual Academy Awards ceremony next week, which is staged nearby. Chances are that such a big sign would be seen on TV during the Red Carpet episodes prior to the Awards.

The Los Angeles City Council president was reported in the Los Angeles Times to have said that a cease-and-desist letter went to the accused urging him not to put up an unpermitted sign.

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