Last Thursday, the 2nd District Court of Appeals upheld the City of Los Angeles’ ban on new billboards by overturning a lower court ruling that had found the law violated the free speech clause of the California Constitution.
In 2002, the City enacted the ban on new “offsite” signs, prohibiting advertising for products or services not available at the location of the sign. However, new billboards were permitted in designated “sign districts.”
Lamar Central Outdoor challenged the ruling in March 2013, arguing the law made content-based decisions about the signs, thus violating free speech. Lamar won that case in 2014, prompting the City to file an appeal.
According to the Los Angeles Business Journal
At a press conference Thursday afternoon following release of the appellate court decision to uphold the city’s billboard ban, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said, “This is a landmark ruling not only for Los Angeles but for the entire state of California. This ruling heads off what would have been an uncontrolled avalanche of new billboards across Los Angeles.”
Also reacting to the ruling, longtime anti-billboard activist Dennis Hathaway said, “The city’s ban on new billboards has now been upheld in both state and federal court in multiple cases, and I think it’s time for the billboard companies to abandon their strategy of challenging it in order to get what they want.”
Lamar’s attorney Michael Wright said Thursday that the sign company has not made a final decision on whether to petition the state Supreme Court to review the ruling.
“We are not happy to see this ruling and we believe the decision is mistaken,” Wright said. “But we are still evaluating our options.”
The Los Angeles Times reported
Roughly a decade ago, L.A.’s political leaders faced a major backlash over the council’s decision to allow scores of billboards to be converted to digital formats. Neighborhood activists called them a new form of visual blight, saying the signs were shining into homes and distracting motorists. After an extended court battle, dozens of those signs were turned off.
Lamar’s legal action had raised the prospect that those signs could return.
In its lawsuit, the company had demanded that city officials give it permission to convert 45 of its signs in Hollywood, Silver Lake, Tarzana and other communities into much more lucrative electronic formats.
Lamar has been increasingly involved in L.A. politics. Last year, the company erected roughly 100 billboards promoting the reelection of Councilman Jose Huizar, who heads the committee that approves changes to sign regulations.
The firm also donated billboard space for five other council candidates, all of whom won their respective races.