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The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday sent a strong message to advertising companies in Hollywood: gigantic, sun-blocking supergraphics and other large billboards are no longer welcome.
“We have heard loudly and clearly from neighborhood residents that ‘enough is enough’ when it comes to supergraphics,” said City Council President Eric Garcetti, 13th District.
Supergraphics can be seen on buildings on Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard, from Vine Street to Highland Avenue, and in other areas. The council voted unanimously, 13-0 to amend its sign ordinance to ban any additional multi-story supergraphics in the Hollywood area.
There are now 32 supergraphic signs in Hollywood that will remain permitted — or grandfathered. Although the ads may change, the space is permitted for this type of signage, city officials said.
There are another 16 supergraphics approved, but whicj still have to be built. The changes did not address digital walls and signs. The ban only affects future permitting of such advertisements — usually made of plastic or vinyl — in what is known as the Hollywood Signage Supplemental Use District, (SUD). The district is bounded on the north and east by the Hollywood (101) Freeway, Melrose Avenue to the south, and La Brea Avenue to the west.
City Councilman Paul Koretz, 5th District, said councilmembers were in agreement that the amount of supergraphics needs to be scaled back.
“It’s gotten to the point where buildings are being designed as a location just to put plastic supergraphics on to them,” Koretz said.
He would be in favor of a citywide ban of supergraphics, but Koretz said Hollywood was targeted because of the “special use district” designation.
The district was created in 2003 to boost Hollywood’s redevelopment efforts. Back then, many historic Hollywood hotels wanted to replace their roof signs. Blake Lamb, a city planner, said the unique designation was also meant for developers to use as an incentive for investors — some of the supergraphics can bring their owners up to $100,000 a month in profit.
Lamb added that the supergraphic incentive is no longer needed today.
But Fred Rosenthal, vice president of Ametron Audio/Video on Argyle Avenue, disagrees. His business is located across from the W Hotel, and the Hollywood/Vine Metro stop, and said the ban is going to negatively impact his business and development in the area. He was in the beginning stages of applying for a supergraphic component to his business, but now isn’t sure if it will see the light of day.
“The ban is really going to hurt things. Rents are down, and in order to fund projects and have income on these properties, supergraphics are the way to do it,” Rosenthal said.
Lamb added that seven supergraphics have been permitted for a future residential development on Hollywood Boulevard; two supergraphics were approved for installation on the Metropolitan Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, just west of the Hollywood (101) Freeway, and several more are expected on Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards and Highland Avenue.
Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, said he wishes city officials would better monitor the original spirit of the ordinance.
“Very poor planning is why so many of these supergraphics are up today,” Hathaway said. “The number is significant, and represents over 30,000 square feet. This is visual blight — unrelenting intrusions in our public spaces.”
Scott Campbell, president of the Central Hollywood Neighborhood Council, said he is glad the council sided with residents, who have strongly come out against supergraphics over the last year.
“We don’t want every building wrapped in vinyl,” said Campbell, who lives a few blocks away from Sunset and Vine.
Campbell said the number of illegal signs that sprang up quickly in the last year, as well as the crackdown on such signs by Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, probably hastened the ban.
“I think the billboard industry has dug themselves a hole,” Campbell said.
After the special district was created, the ordinance not only allowed neon hotel and apartment rooftop signs, but also plastic signs that rotated its advertisements, from movies to alcohol, TV shows, and other products.
The way supergraphics have been built in the past, companies have approached property owners or vice-versa, and they then work together to get a permit, Lamb said. The revenue ranges significantly, depending on where it is placed and its size, but can bring in between $10,000 up to $100,000 each month, officials have estimated. Either the property owner or the sign company would then usher the permit application through the city planning process, Lamb said.
The recent crackdown on illegal signs has prevented more from going up, but there are still illegal supergraphics in Hollywood, Lamb said, but it’s hard to spot them.
“They’re constantly changing,” Lamb added. “But generally, when you see supergraphics that wrap buildings, that’s not legal. Our regulations don’t allow you to cover windows.”
In March, the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office filed a civil lawsuit against a sign company, several sign installers and property owners for allegedly illegal supergraphics and billboards installed at five locations in the city.
One of those, Vanguard Outdoor, Inc. is currently in litigation. The owner, Pam Anderson would not comment on the city’s ban this week, citing the lawsuit.
Garcetti said the ban is about reducing blight that threatens Hollywood’s prosperity and quality of life.
“We want a Hollywood economy that attracts tourists and that fills buildings with jobs, not one that uses buildings as three-dimensional billboards,” Garcetti said.