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Mobile billboards mounted on trailers cruise the streets of L.A. and often park for extended periods of time in no parking zones, much to the dismay of public officials and members of the community. But this week, officials began to crack down on the trailers after new laws took effect on Jan. 1 prohibiting the advertising trailers.
The crack down is being led by Councilmember Dennis Zine, 3rd District, who represents the west San Fernando Valley, where the mobile billboards have become a “major nuisance.” In the local area, City Councilmembers Tom LaBonge, 4th District, Paul Koretz, 5th District, and Council President Eric Garcetti, 13th District, have all vowed to follow Zine’s lead in eradicating the mobile advertisements.
Zine held a news conference in West Hills on Monday after nine of the mobile advertising trailers were towed away in the San Fernando Valley. He said the trailers are causing visual blight, and has enlisted community members to help locate the trailers so they can be towed.
“We had a problem with these advertising trailers that started in the Valley but spread to other parts of the city. There are a lot of problems with these trailers, they cause visibility issues, public safety issues, and they are a real nuisance in the community,” Zine said. “People who condone this type of activity often park these vehicles right in front of no parking signs, in total disregard for the law.”
The city has long attempted to regulate the mobile advertising trailers, and had passed an ordinance several years ago prohibiting them. That ordinance was eventually invalidated in court because it violated free speech laws, as well as the basis that one municipality could not ban the advertisements while they were allowed in others. Zine said city officials then turned to State Assembly Member Bob Blumenfeld (D-San Fernando Valley), who authored legislation that specifically allows cities and counties to enforce ordinances against mobile advertising. The Los Angeles City Council then passed a new ban against the mobile billboards, and both the city and state laws went into effect concurrently on Jan. 1. Officials believe the state legislation will enable the new city ordinance to be upheld in court.
“The state law now allows local jurisdictions to control this activity on their roadways. Basically it says, if you have a problem, you can implement your own regulations,” Zine added. “We are taking a very aggressive stance, and we will continue to eradicate these trailers.”
The advertising trailers are commonly parked around Hollywood, including on Cahuenga and Barham Boulevards. On Tuesday, one was parked on 3rd Street just west of Fairfax Avenue within the 5th Council District. Koretz said he has seen others in the area, and added that department of transportation officials have been instructed to tow them away as soon as they are reported. He encouraged residents to report the trailers to the city’s information hotline at 311, or report the locations to his office.
“They are a significant public safety hazard, they block visibility when someone is coming out of a parking lot, and they take up parking spaces,” Koretz said. “They also add to visual blight, and they are a general public nuisance.”
The ordinance calls for the trailers to first be issued a citation, and then they will be towed if they are not moved. Companies that operate the trailers will be subject to a $1,000 fine and towing fees. Both Zine and Koretz said some operators have already tried to get around the ordinance by taking the wheels off the trailers, but those billboards will also be removed.
“They are now claiming they are sleds, but I don’t think that is going to hold up in court,” Koretz added.
Mike Eissa, owner of City Street Billboards, a company based in Van Nuys that has mobile ad trailers all over the city, said the city’s ordinance is unfair. Eissa, who owns the trailer that was parked on 3rd Street on Tuesday, added that some advertising companies are planning to file a lawsuit against the city seeking to overturn the law, but could not provide specifics.
“It’s unfair, and we are going to find ways to go around it, no matter what,” Eissa said. “I understand the blight issue, but we are advertising professionals, and my trailers do not look bad. They don’t tilt in the wind. We are advertising all local businesses and support local business. They are all professionals, doctors, dentists, lawyers, professional businesses.”
Eissa said he has 28 trailers and added that he will continue to park them on city streets. He said he considers the fines as the cost of doing business.
“We want justice, we just want what is fair,” Eissa added.
LaBonge said he plans to closely monitor the trailers and has also encouraged residents to notify 311 or his office about any mobile signs they see in the 4th District. Yusef Robb, a deputy to Garcetti, said the same should be done within the 13th District. Koretz’s office can be reached at (213)473-7005; LaBonge’s Office can be reached at (213)485-3337; and Garcetti’s Office can be reached at (213)473-7013.
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