One can hardly imagine the landscape of the Hollywood Hills without the 45-foot-high letters assuring everyone they’re still in the television and film capital of the world.
Randy’s giant donut in the sky beckons to those craving breakfast treats in Inglewood, and in Exposition Park a famously oversized Felix on Figueroa calls to car shoppers.
The point: In a metropolis like Los Angeles, signs aren’t just a great marketing tool, they’re a way of life and, for some, a means of survival.
Just as there are myriad shapes and signs throughout our city, there are just as many types of neighborhoods. Koreatown, the Garment District, the NoHo Arts District – all of these communities have remarkably different feels, needs, looks and, of course, signs.
Accordingly, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association supports a sensible sign ordinance in the city reflective of its diverse fabric.
Some of these billboards are brand-new, state-of-the-art structures; other signs were put up decades ago, and now the owners have no clear path to improve their signs without inviting risk.
With all this confusion, there is a clear need for the city to step in. In fact, the city has an opportunity to do what is expected of it and resolve this long-standing issue. Good public policy is needed here, one that takes into consideration the needs of local communities and the businesses that operate within them. Over 450 municipalities in 43 states have done this. It’s time Los Angeles finds a solution.
A balanced sign ordinance would not only provide the needed framework for governing where signs should go in the future, but will also work to reduce the total number of billboards in Los Angeles and provide for other public benefits.
It’s not really a matter of if the city needs a new sign ordinance at this point: There are millions of voices to be heard, hundreds of square miles of streets to discuss and no clear guidance for anyone. The discussion should really be about how.
There are three things to consider in that discussion: There are billboard owners who want and deserve a path to fix up their legal property; there are businesses and organizations that would benefit greatly from having signs directing commerce in their neighborhood; and there are residents who want a voice in the discussion about where billboards should go, as well as how and where aging billboards can be replaced by newer, more effective digital counterparts.
It’s just common sense to let each community decide what type of billboards and signs are desirous in each part of the city.
L.A.’s 500 square miles make for one amazing city, but on some issues, Reseda residents might see things differently than those on the Sunset Strip or in South Los Angeles.
VICA encourages our city leaders to look out for the business community, as well as residents, and establish a system of rules and policies that are fair to those who own signs, those who rely on signs and those who live and work around the signs.
Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, a Sherman Oaks-based business advocacy organization that represents L.A. County employers at the local, state and federal levels of government.