Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Billboard Blight

Do LA Live's hyper-commericialized facades show us what we're in store for as a city?
Google Maps Street View

"While signs (because of their messages) are a form of 'speech' protected by the First Amendment, the courts grant local communities considerable discretion in regulating the time, place, and manner of sign usage, including banning altogether certain types of signs, such as free standing, overhanging, and backlit signs, etc."
-- Selmi, Kushner and Ziegler (2008). Land Use Regulation: Cases and Materials 3rd Edition, p. 834.

Los Angeles is locked in litigation with outdoor advertising companies (Clear Channel Outdoor and CBS Outdoor are some of the most prominent ones). At issue is the city's banning of new billboards and multistory supergraphics in 2002. The city has since backed off of that stance, allowing even some electronic billboards. These signs change images periodically and are constantly illuminated. Isn't this distracting to drivers and annoying to people who have to deal with the light? Aren't these signs ugly? Don't they hyper-commercialize public space? Aren't electronic billboards even bad for the environment since they use electricity? Aren't supergraphics a fire hazard that has been opposed by some fire fighting professionals? Well, yes.

Luckily, groups like the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight and Scenic America think Los Angeles deserves better. Public space deserves protection from tawdry hyper-commercialization. We wouldn't put an electronic billboard on the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. (at least not yet, "Today's Senate Session brought to you by Goldman Sachs"). So why do we insist on degrading other public spaces?

No comments:

Post a Comment