The West Hollywood City Council will be asked on Monday to give final approval to a contract for construction and operation of a pilot digital billboard in the city parking lot at 8775 Sunset Blvd. near Horn.
It was chosen in October 2016 from among proposals submitted by nine teams, whose members included prominent architects such as the late Zaha Hadid, billboard companies such as JC Decaux and arts organizations such as MAK. The list of nine proposals was winnowed down to four by a jury that included representatives from outdoor advertising companies, architects, planners and urban designers and a variety of City Hall departments. The project is intended to illustrate the evolution of outdoor advertising in the new media era and encourage other outdoor advertisers to be similarly creative on the Sunset Strip, which is known worldwide for its iconic billboards. It is described as the “Sunset Spectacular” project, using the outdoor advertising industry term for a creative display that incorporates digital technologies.
The Belltower is a 72-foot tall, three-sided structure that incorporates a digital screen. The site includes dedicated areas for arts programming on the interior and exterior, as well as a public plaza surrounding the sign.
The project continues to face opposition from some residents, who have expressed concern in the past about the impact of the digital images on drivers on Sunset Boulevard and on residents of nearby hotels and apartments and condos. Other issues raised are the loss of five parking spaces in the city lot to accommodate the billboard and a fear that the surrounding park might become an encampment for homeless people. Many of those residents have submitted letters of opposition to the project. The project has been praised by designers, and it was awarded the 2017 Next LA Award by the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
To address concerns about the project, the lighting at the base of the Belltower “will be visible from the outside through the perforated metal panels, creating transparency to the structure and resulting in a well-lighted interior space that adds pedestrian interest and discourages loitering,” says a memo to the Council from City Hall staff. “Three pedestrian light poles will illuminate the plaza surrounding the sign structure. In addition, OBM (Orange Barrel Media) will be contracting with a private security company to ensure 24 hour security availability when necessary.”
“The revised design includes a 3,682 square foot plaza with additional landscaping that provides a pedestrian respite and art-viewing space on Sunset Boulevard,” the memo says. “The proposed plaza includes ample circulation around and through the sign structure and an inclined area to facilitate public viewing of art displays on the billboards.”
The city also has gotten Orange Barrel Media to agree to an increase in revenue from the project that was in the initial proposal. While the city will waive all planning and building fees (saving Orange Barrel $125,000) , it will receive a guaranteed minimum annual revenue of $1,023,750 in the first year of its 10-year contract with Orange Barrel. That guaranteed minimum amount will increase by 3% a year, yielding a total of $11,736,146 over the 10-year contract. Once Orange Barrel begins selling advertising on the Belltower, the city will receive a cut of that revenue if it exceeds the guaranteed minimum payment. The City of West Hollywood currently receives $40,000 a month in rent for the double-sided standard billboard that is on the site.
Up to 20% of the visual content on the digital billboard will be art displayed at specific times during the day and for certain monthly events. That art will be approved by the city’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission, with some of it curated by MoCA.
The City Council will consider approving a contract licensing the billboard site to Orange Barrel at its meeting on Monday night at 6:30 p.m. The meeting takes place in the City Council Chambers at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd. south of Santa Monica. Parking is free in the five-story structure behind the Chambers with a ticket validated in the lobby.