The seemingly endless dispute over digital billboards in Los Angeles got yet another twist on Monday with the launch of “Sign Up L.A.,” a coalition formed by outdoor advertising companies in alliance with business groups and community organizations to present the case for digital billboards in the city.
According to its organizers, Sign Up L.A. launched with twenty charter members, including outdoor advertisers like Clear Channel Outdoor and Lamar Advertising; industry organizations like the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, Ad Council, and Minorities in Broadcasting; and local business groups and cultural institutions such as the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Los Angeles Downtown Arts District, and Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, among others.
According to the organization, Sign Up L.A.’s mission is “the development of common sense policies designed to encourage the reasonable use and location of digital billboards in Los Angeles.” Arguments cited in favor of digital billboards include public safety and information, economic development, and additional revenues for the city's coffers.
The launch of Sign Up L.A. comes not long after Clear Channel and CBS Outdoor suffered a legal setback which threatens to drastically reduce their digital billboard networks in the city. In December an appellate court ruled that permits for 100 digital billboards around Los Angeles are void, because the L.A. City Council had no right to issue them under the city's own laws.
The Los Angeles attorney general struck a deal with the two outdoor companies in 2006 allowing them to continue operating signs built prior to 1986, and also allowing them to convert up to 840 billboards to digital signs, as part of a settlement of an earlier court case. But the appellate court ruled that this agreement violated the city's own 2002 law forbidding conversion of static billboards to digital displays; according to the ruling, the city does not have the power to issue exemptions from the law.
Clear Channel and CBS can still appeal to the California Supreme Court. Meanwhile according to the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, which has been fighting digital billboards in L.A., some members of the city council are asking the city's legal team to investigate the possibility of issuing new, valid permits in place of the invalid permits.