Planning Commission hits pause on big changes for older WeHo billboards

The goal was to kick off a renaissance of West Hollywood’s many aging billboards by loosening regulations, but WeHo’s Planning Commission wanted to see a more airtight plan.

Though most billboards in WeHo are concentrated on Sunset Blvd. (and are regulated by the the Sunset Specific Plan), 76 so-called “non-conforming signs” are spread throughout the city, down Santa Monica Blvd., La Cienega, Fairfax and La Brea. These billboards were approved before the city was incorporated in 1984; now, they’re non-conforming — grandfathered out of having to abide by today’s zoning regulations.That legal status makes it difficult for property owners to attempt alterations, improvements or even repairs to the boards.

The zoning amendment offered a sweeping revamp of the rules, allowing for relocation and replacement of existing billboards in certain types of development projects along the city’s commercial arterials. The intent of the proposal was to “create aesthetic improvements, reduce visual blight, generate public benefits, and reduce the negative land use consequences related to the city’s non-conforming billboard signs.” The amendment also includes a revenue sharing agreement with profits from the boards.

Commissioners pointed out that aspects of the plan, such as linking profit sharing to affordable housing, were overly vague and detached from the overall goals of the city.

“The public development agreement shouldn’t always be about cash which goes into a kitty at City Hall,” said Chairperson Lynn Hoopingarner, “it should be a true benefit to the public. And that benefit should accrue to the whole public, and in the form of things that they can see, and touch and feel. And so to me there should be a larger thought about that. I just I think, again, this is not fully baked in.”

Commissioner Michael Lombardi noted that language allowing owners to increase the height of their boards could open a can of regulatory worms, while Vice Chairperson Stacey Jones asked city staff to prepare a comprehensive list of the owners, and how they were actually making off the signs.

Whether or not the amendment allowed digital billboards on Santa Monica Blvd. also became a point of discussion.

“The minute we start having flashing lights and digital media on Santa Monica Boulevard, La Cienega, et cetera,” Hoopingarner said, “we’ve substantially changed (the character of the neighborhood).”

“If there’s no intent for digital on these other Billboards off Sunset then I think we need to be explicit about that.”

The Planning Commission passed a motion to continue the item to a date uncertain, sending it back to city staff for, in Hoopingarner’s words, “more bells and whistles and frosting.”

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Kyle Wilson
Kyle Wilson
3 months ago

The city has already greatly changed the character of the Sunset strip with their new blazing bright, cold harsh white lighting on the overhead poles. It’s kind of creepy – not relaxing or inviting.

Alan Strasburg
Alan Strasburg
3 months ago

I toast the Chair for her insight and common sense. Too often these imperious boards and commissions give short shrift to the real-life consequences of their actions. We need more of them to focus on the quality of life of those of us who actually call West Hollywood home.

JJ1
JJ1
3 months ago
Reply to  Alan Strasburg

Yes!

David Abrams
David Abrams
3 months ago

Replacing 37+ year old billboards with newer, safer, more beautiful structures is a no brainer and win-win for everyone.

Absolutely no digital signs anywhere other than the Sunset Strip, those things are so ruinous of the neighbors’ quality of life.

Steve Martin
Steve Martin
3 months ago

If there was ever a need for a public study session between the Planning Commission and Council, this is the issue. The direction set by the original Sunset Specific Plan is dated and there needs to be a more public discussion of exactly what the City wants its relationship with these non-conforming billboards to be. I have concerns that the City is once again giving away valuable development rights without substantial compensation, which is essentially a form of corporate welfare. Any proposal needs to insure that a market value of the right we are giving away is first established before… Read more »

Joshua88
Joshua88
3 months ago

Good idea – or several.
Like the stress to clarify a public benefit.

Art
Art
3 months ago

No digital billboards other than the Strip! And even the neighbors there are bothered by the nighttime disturbances!

Reality
Reality
3 months ago

http://www.islandpacket.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/david-lauderdale/article189741679.html

Hilton Head, South Carolina a prosperous permanent and resort locale that has flourished since its inception without ugly signs and billboards. It can be done.

Kudos to Chairman Hoopingarner for asserting control over this potential insidious creep of sensational billboard blight throughout West Hollywood. Also the fresh approach of the newest voice Commissioner Michael Lombardi is entirely welcome.

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