Ace Outdoor’s long quest to erect a new billboard on Sunset Boulevard got a little longer last night, with the West Hollywood City Council asking city staffers to reconsider its proposed height and the way it would be integrated with famous signs for the Roxy and Rainbow Bar and Grill.
Alexander Bilanzich, owner of the Utah-based billboard company, told the Council that his company so far has invested more than $1 million int he project, including $150,000 to build a base for the sign that city staffers recommend he not use.
The City Council first approved Ace’s proposal for a billboard above the Rainbow at 9015 Sunset Blvd. near North Wetherly Drive in 2010. However, opponents of the billboard, backed by Regency Outdoor, a competitor of Ace, submitted a proposal for a referendum to challenge the Council’s approval. In response, the Council repealed the ordinance.
Then in 2011, the Council approved the Ace proposal again. But, again faced with a possible lawsuit by Regency, the Council reversed its 2011 approval. In 2012 the Council asked city staffers to review new and proposed billboards on Sunset Boulevard and update a city plan for the area after that review. But when city staffers told the Council the review would take longer than anticipated, the Council directed them to proceed with reviewing Ace’s application. The application was endorsed by the Planning Commission at an October meeting.
Nic Adler, owner of the Roxy, last night spoke in favor of the sign on behalf of his father, Lou Adler, who is co-owner of the adjacent Rainbow. Other speakers who supported it included Steve Martin, a local attorney and former Council member, local resident Esther Baum and local resident and activist Sheila Lightfoot. Several speakers noted that they had received “robocalls” from an opponent of the billboard attacking the project and attempting to link it to Councilmember Jeffrey Prang’s campaign for election as L.A. County Assessor. Those calls are presumed to have come from Regency Outdoor, whose owner is Brian Kennedy. In response, Afriat Consulting, manager of Prang’s campaign, enlisted Mayor John D’Amico to produce a robocall supporting Prang’s candidacy.
But Councilmember John Heilman said he was bothered by the sign’s dimensions (48 feet high by 14 feet wide) and height (it would rise 110 feet above ground). That height was chosen so that the billboard would not obscure the view of the iconic Rainbow and Roxy signs on the adjacent properties. Mayor D’Amico said the proposed sign “instead of unifying the site…. i think it does the opposite.”
D’Amico recommended city staffers work with Ace and the owners of the Rainbow and Roxy to come back with another proposal that would permit the billboard while better integrating it with the existing signs, including possibly moving them.
For Ace to install the billboard, which is taller than the current 60-foot height limit, the Council has to amend the zoning for the property and also enact a “development agreement.” Such an agreement is conditioned on the billboard being “creative” and providing benefits to the city. In the case of this billboard, the benefits will be nearly $200,000 in annual fees for 20 years. Ace makes money by charging advertisers for placement on the billboard.
Ace already has four billboards on Sunset Boulevard. They are at 8535 Sunset, 8730 Sunset, 8901 Sunset and 8906 Sunset.