LA Plans to Grant Amnesty for 744 Billboards Lacking Permits

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Why is Los Angeles considering amnesty for billboards? The city’s department of building and safety just conducted a citywide billboard survey, and it was consequently discovered that 744 billboards were without permits. Los Angeles is hoping to grant them legal, non-conforming status.

The billboards are located throughout the city, but especially prevalent in East and South LA. The question of the billboards’ legitimacy is complicated owing to one California law, which states that billboards become legal after five years if they are not cited for violation of any local codes. Local authorities can rebut this if they can show that the billboard was not legally erected.

LA's department of building and safety just conducted a citywide billboard survey, and it was consequently discovered that 744 billboards were without permits.
LA’s department of building and safety just conducted a citywide billboard survey, and it was consequently discovered that 744 billboards were without permits.

The problem is that, even though there is a lack of permit, regulations regarding billboards have changed over time. Without knowing when any of the billboards originated, the city cannot identify whether the billboards violated the regulations that were in place when they were erected. “Any attempt to rebut the presumption of legality would be extremely labor intensive and would probably yield negligible results,” the city’s report concluded, which is the key reason the city is moving to legalize the billboards.

The majority of the billboards are owned by Clear Channel, Lamar Advertising, and CBS Outdoor. The billboards were erected, however, by previous owners. It wasn’t until 1986 that the current city ordinances about billboard types, sizes and locations were adopted.

In a potential twist, Lamar Advertising bought 484 of the non-permitted billboards from Vista Media. Three years before this sale, however, Vista Media had, in a lawsuit settlement with the city, agreed to remove billboard-lacking permits. It is currently unclear as to whether this could impact Lamar billboard amnesty.

The city’s billboard survey additionally shows that another 791 permitted signs are now in a state of noncompliance because they have been altered, and these signs will be expected to adhere to current requirements, or face removal.

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