WeHo City Council Will Be Asked to Finally Bless the Sunset Strip Belltower Project

Illustration of The Belltower billboard project proposed for the Sunset Strip (Tom Wiscombe Architecture)

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.

The billboard, labeled the “Belltower,” is a collaboration of Orange Barrel Media, Tom Wiscombe Architecture, the Museum of Contemporary Art and Walter P. Moore, the engineering firm.

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.

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Shawn Thompson
Shawn Thompson
4 years ago

The Billboard lobby gets the council members re-elected with big campaign donations. Then the Billboard companies get new billboards. That’s how weho democracy works. John Heilman And John Duran love billboard lobby donations. In fact thats why John Heilman has been on city council for decades now!

Earl Eason
Earl Eason
4 years ago
Reply to  Shawn Thompson

And the billboard companies pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to the city of West Hollywood each year, money the city uses to provide great social services to older and less healthy citizens. I guess the city could take them down and take a pass on the money and let residents pay for their own care (by the way, are you a Republican? I get a sense you weren’t an Obamacare fan)

Cy Husain
4 years ago
Reply to  Shawn Thompson

Mind you that John Heilman, Esq. was ELECTED by a very significant margin of the popular vote without the help of an electoral college. He has consistently fought for the rights of many oppressed minority groups, poor people and, for healthcare. He is a past board member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and, his work has frequently brought him at odds with corporate interests. With the City Council you have a right to vote for the members of your choice and, even give input with your testimony at meetings. You can even run for a position… Read more »

08MELLIE
08MELLIE
4 years ago

I believe in capitalism, HOWEVER, this is not art. As the Hon. Judith Sheindlin would say, don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining. So The City of West Hollywood benefits from a $1,000,000 per month cash infusion. Isn’t that about the same amount of income from the parking meter increase the other week (which, if anyone remembers, is the same $1,000,000 The City of West Hollywood gained from eliminating free Sunday parking a few years back)? Aside from the money grab, this a blight. I feel for the residents that have to look at misery and 72… Read more »

spencer
spencer
4 years ago

Incredible – now billboards ARE public monuments! When will LAUSD finally replace all the textbooks with magazines?

Cy Husain
4 years ago
Reply to  spencer

What’s really incredible is that the private sector’s ability to usurp without any real public opposition or even questioning is a rather recent development in our history! Now in the 21st Century the kids can download all sorts of text books and journals on their devices and, use them to cite arguments they are making. A good one for you to gain understanding of the topic:

RECLAIMING THE COMMONS
A talk given at the Center for Social Theory and Comparative History at UCLA

Mike
Mike
4 years ago

Sunset Boulevard today with all those billboards is very distracting. I don’t think a lot of people even look at the billboards because to negotiate down Sunset, you have to be aware of people on cell phones, or texting, or visitors not knowing where they’re going.

You also have a very difficult time finding anything. Because of the billboards cover up everything.

The only godsend is they cover up those two dreadful hideous buildings at the corner of La Cienega and Sunset.

As for the WEHO City Council, they are run by developers. Their particular taste is very striip mall.

Josh
Josh
4 years ago

Looks good to me.

Cy Husain
4 years ago

An over-bloated gaudy egotecture project dedicated to promoting commercialism in complete contempt of any and all social responsibility, what could possibly go wrong here? Given the sociopathic nature of the overwhelming majority of capitalists including the “Belltower” cabal, it’s doubtful that such a question would ever occur to them but, would surely be perceived as a threat to their interests if dare asked by anyone else. So just how much of the content of the digital displays will be dedicated to “art” and, public service announcements, as opposed to trying to sell us junk? It might be a good idea… Read more »

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