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Concerned Angelenos Promoting Progress <firstname.lastname@example.org> BEWARE! Urgent: - LA City Councilmembers quietly pass a Digital Billboard Motion October 12, 2012 1:24:01 PM PDT email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
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Dear Neighbor: There's an insidious and hugely destructive piece of legislation that is a TROJAN HORSE and is on the fast track to be voted on by the entire City Council on this Tues., Oct 16. Please see attached. We need to activate everyone and stop this happens. We need your help calling and writing your council office and showing up at City Hall on Tuesday to speak out. Well-meaning dunderheads at the LA City Council have been duped again or they are conspiring with Big Media Corporations to overrun our City's Zoning laws and process. CBS and Clear Channel run news stations and control journalist, and they also have billions of dollars, so it's easy to understand how they can influence our poor, old little City Council... Just two days ago on Weds. Oct. 10, Councilmembers Reyes, Krekorian and Cardenas passed a motion that would LOCK IN all of the 100++ existing, illegal digital billboards blighting our city's landscape. Do you want those digital signs to stay up? Do you want MORE of them in your neighborhood? These were built under a series of 2006 Settlement Agreement between the City and these select billboard companies. These settlements were negotiated in private and were back room deals that benefited only these billboard companies. It allowed these billboard companies to convert their old, grandfathered, wood or steel and vinyl signs into glaring jumbotrons all over the City, without any oversight or approval by the City, without any neighborhood hearings, without any findings, without any regard to the zoning of the signs (these digital signs have been erected in residential zones). The City's zoning and building laws expressly PROHIBITED any such conversion to digital, yet this private agreement was a "license to kill" that granted a special, above-the-law right to these companies to get special permits notwithstanding the ban on such conversions. In 2007, a small billboard company called Summit Media sued to invalidate the Settlements because what they allowed directly violated the city's zoning laws. (called Summit v. LA) The City, CBS and Clear Channel all fought the lawsuit vigorously. The digital signs increase their billboard revenue on the same sign by 10x. Losing the Settlements meant they lost the opportunity to erect another up to 1500 digital signs in LA, north of LAX and west of Downtown, in the desirable neighborhood that advertisers want to be in. They were stopped at 105 digitals in the City, which are still flashing to this day. The settlements gave them the right to each have 420 credits (840 total), but one credit could be used to put a digital sign on each face of a 2-faced billboard. So the total rights to put up digital signs was 1680. (Regency Outdoor was later given the right to convert about 40 of their signs). The other billboard companies and the rest of the citizens of LA were prevented from erecting billboards including digital signs and digital conversions because the law expressly prohibited it. Summit's lawsuit led to legislation that stopped the digital conversions at 105, but CBS and Clear Channel. In late-2009, veteran state court Judge Terry Green found in favor of Summit and invalidated the Settlements, calling them "poisonous." This was a huge victory for the residents of LA, and a huge victory for proper zoning process (i.e. notice to affected residents, chance to heard, etc). CBS, Clear Channel and the City immediately appealed, and according to CA statute, the effect of Judge Green's decision was automatically stayed, i.e. paused, until the outcome of the appeal. They've been allowed to continue to operate these illegal digital signs in our neighborhoods without any interference from the city or the state. They've made tens of millions of dollars so far off of these digital signs, and they want to make more. They want to keep these signs forever, and they want to put up MORE digital signs like the ones that are up now. These companies are huge, but they need the cash, and they are willing to lobby, pressure and litigate with cities like LA to get what they want, without regard for the law. This motion passed on Wednesday is the key to their plan. The Summit case has been on appeal now for 2+ years due to CBS and Clear Channel's procedural tricks and delaying tactics. In that time, they've poured hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars on lawyers and lobbyists trying to persuade the City Council to come up with some legislative "solution" that would circumvent Judge Green's decision. This is the same type of lobbying and wrangling and spinning that these corporations did that got them their 2006 Settlement Agreements in the first place. Now, finally, with the appeal in the Summit v. LA case having oral argument heard at the end of this month, the lobbyists at CBS and Clear Channel have made their donations, spent their money on lobbyists, and now have lined up their political supporters in the City Council, and have presented this 11th-Hour, Hail Mary motion to invalidate the Summit case decision. They got support from the PLUM Committee to even waive consideration of the motion, so it's on a fast-track now. It is being voted on by the entire Council on Tuesday, October 16. This motion was written by Clear Channel lobbyist/attorney, Cindy Starrett at the prestigious law LA law firm Latham & Watkins (http://www.lw.com/people/LucindaStarrett) in concert with CBS's bulldog litigator (who has made a career out of suing and legally strong-arming the City of LA) Laura Brill (http://www.kbkfirm.com/attorneys/laura-brill), in concert with the coterie of lobbyists and consultants. The Summit case is almost sure to be upheld by the appeals court sometime later this year or early next. The trial court judge who made the decision, Judge Terry Green, is a very sober, very veteran, and very well-respected judge who made a very well-reasoned, well-written decision
that was based on very good legal precedent, including the CA case called Trancas and the 9th Cir. case called League of Residential Neighborhood Advocates (in which the City was a losing defendant too). The chances that the CA Appeals court overturns Judge Green's deiscionwhich means that the Settlements will be invalidated. This means that no more illegal digital signs will be erected in our neighborhoods. It also means that there is a very good chance the illegal signs will be forced to be removed. This is what is set to happen if the City does nothing and passes no motion. The point is that the citizens' have a great decision on their hands and are sitting pretty, and now we're just waiting for final validation by the appeals court. Do nothing and great things are going to happen. Act precipitously now and we may lose it all! We're dealing with very crafty people here with very deep pockets and deep political connections. They wrote this motion in a very crafty way. They attempt to use almost reverse psychology and scare tactics to get the Council to end up where they want them. The motion pretends that the City is under threat if the Settlement Agreement is upheld. And it urges the Council to act precipitously to do something now before the Settlements are upheld by the Court of Appeals. It says that the City should negotiate now exclusively of course with those that it entered into the (poisonous, illegal) Settlement Agreements with 6 years ago so that it can try to extract money from those companies for their digital signs. Here's where this is all wrong. The odds are very favorable that Judge Green's decision INVALIDATING the Settlements is what will be upheld soon - not the Settlements. The Settlements have ALREADY been invalidated, and that invalidation is going to be upheld. CBS and Clear Channel know this and that's what they fear, and that's why they wrote and introduced this motion. If the Appeals Court upholds Green's decision and invalidates the Settlements (as it's predicted will happen), the the City is in a FAR GREATER position with CBS and Clear Channel because then it will have the right to force the removal of the digital signs or to negotiate for money, restrictions, whatever (depending on how the decision comes down exactly). The City will have leverage only AFTER the Appeals court ruling, not before! This motion has got it BACKWARDS. Now if by some odd chance, Judge Green's ruling is reversed and the Settlements are upheld, which is probably a 1% chance, the City is no worse off than it is now and has been for 6 years. Things will remain status quo. The same old digital signs will stay up. No more signs will be built because of the 2009 Sign Ban expressly outlawing the conversion of any more digital signs. That's all. That is certainly NO reason to pass this motion now. On the contrary - we must wait for the appeals court decision before we do ANYTHING with regard to the digitals. Now if the City passes this motion and makes a deal with CBS and Clear Channel now under these false pretenses, the parade of horribles that will probably come from negotiating with the devil are predictable. It will be a re-run of the last time they negotiated with these corporations behind closed doors in 2006. They will LOCK IN the current 105 digital signs that are now in legal jeopardy. They will use the "shield" of "legislation" to inoculate their ill-gotten deal from judicial scrutiny. They will negotiate for the conversion of more signs to digital all over the city. They will pretend to give the city some big benefit, which will probably be some nominal amount of money and a "take down" provision. The take down works like this: billboard company, you take down 5 old signs and we will let you convert one sign to digital. Here's the catch with these. These companies have 1000s of signs all over the city of LA. They have signs in Brentwood, Palisades, West LA, Hancock Park, Hollywood, Sherman Oaks, etc., and also South Central, Boyle Heights, East LA, the harbor, etc. And they have different sizes - they have tiny signs and massive signs. The way they weasel it with these take down clauses is that the headline reads "Billboard Reduction Program Passed", but the reality is much more grim: The billboard companies are allowed to take down several TINY signs in return for one HUGE digital sign. Plus, they are allowed to take down these tiny signs in places like SOUTH CENTRAL, and to erect a digital sign in a neighborhood like WESTWOOD or BRENTWOOD or ENCINO. You see how that works? Believe it or not, this motion has the audacity to call for closed-door, back room negotiations! This is where the companies sit with the captive City pols and attorneys and hammer out their agreement. This agreement will protect and lock in the current digital signs and protect them from the legal decision that will throw those signs out in the next few months. It will pave the way for more digital signs all over the city without real oversight, without a clear zoning process, etc. And the whole deal will be craftily designed to be "legislation" (although we all know that it's "special", custom law, handcrafted as political payback for all of the lobbying dollars, donations, and guarantees of consulting gigs when the pols get voted out or term-limited), and by making it legislation, it will aim to circumvent and moot the Summit case and protect it all from future legal challenges from residents of LA. This is a trojan horse and it is politics AT ITS WORST. It is slimy, sneaky and terrible for the City, and we must all band together and STOP THIS. Do not get tricked by this. This was written in an intentionally backward way in order to get support and disguise its true intentions. PLEASE forward this to neighbors, families, friends and the press. Please call your councilmember and urge them to stop this. Please come to City Hall on Tuesday to voice your concern. Please do whatever you can to ring the alarm and speak out for your rights. The LA Times and other news media may be covering this. Contact David Zahniser at the LA Times if you want to let him know what you think of this, and have your voice heard. We've had to suffer through so much at the hands of our local politicians. Enough is Enough! We have the chance to reverse this hideous settlement agreement that our same Council got us into. These digital signs are likely coming down if the City just waits and doesn't get themselves into messes like this motion and proposed law. Do not let your elected representative approve this! Please take action now however you can. We have only until the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 16 to act. Please don't sit idly by, and watch more jumbotrons get erected outside your bedroom window, your church or synagogue, your child's school, your neighborhood restaurant. The only way we can stop this is by picking up the phone or emailing or faxing or standing on the street and letting the world know and our elected officials know NOW that ANGELENOS DO NOT WANT MORE ILLEGAL DIGITAL BILLBOARDS OR ANY MORE BACKROOM DEALS!!!!!!!!!! Please forward this to every Angeleno you care about or think will care. Let's make this viral together! We don't have a second to waste - CBS and Clear Channel already have most of the Council in their pocket plus now Trutanich is behind them too.
Together we can stop this INSANITY and reclaim our City. Sincerely, Your Neighbors and Concerned Angelenos Promoting Progress
12-1611_M….pdf (944 KB)