The Historic Preservation Commission fears
dynamic, 3-D billboards will permanently alter
the character of the Sunset Strip.
The conjoined twin billboards hoisted high on the Sunset Towers will breach tradition in every way.
Instead of lying flat against the building, they’ll jut out into the air like a giant pair of window shutters. Instead of flat images, they will display a hybrid of static visuals and vivid motion graphics.
It’s just the latest leap forward in the rapid evolution of outdoor advertising on the Sunset Strip — too rapid, some might say.
The Historic Planning Commission was impressed with the presentation city staff gave on the project Monday night.
They couldn’t find any reason to flag the proposed billboards — known as the “Sunset Worl,” as in “whorl” or spiral — or the accompanying remodel of the Sunset Towers at 8730 Sunset Boulevard, which will reclad the building’s northern façade in lightweight brushed aluminum composite panels and install a significant amount of landscaping along the front façade at the pedestrian level and within planters above the existing ground floor canopy.
What weighed on their minds was the bigger picture — even though it was outside of their purview.
“What we are engaging in now is an arms race,” said Commissioner Ed Levin. “What’s clear to me is that staff has viewed its obligation to the city as trying to maximize revenue for the city, and we maximize revenue for the city by making the boards as prominent as possible. By shoving them as far out into the public realm as possible.”
“That is the first billboard that the city has allowed to be extended out to the curb. Every billboard is going to come out and use these precedents to say, ‘We deserve to be all the way out to the curb.’ At that point, there is going to be no view down Sunset at any point, that will see anything other than billboards. We are dramatically changing the landscape of Sunset Boulevard.”
The agenda item did not call on them to vote for or against the proposal, and they do not wield the power of the Planning Commission. They recognized their limited ability to address the looming issues.
“I think that Planning Commission, and particularly City Council, needs to think about this very carefully, in terms of what they approve in terms of billboards encroaching into the public right of way,” Levin said.
“It doesn’t appear to impact the historical resources,” said Commissioner Jacob Sotsky. “But this is one of the most dangerous stretches along Sunset Boulevard. And I do wonder if planning is going to take into consideration the fact that when you add dynamic billboards into this space.”
“The reason why these businesses are willing to pay such high dollar value to be on this stretch,” said Commissioner Lola Davidson, “is the very thing that we’re trying to protect it. And if we don’t somehow stop it, (Sunset Blvd.) is going to turn into Times Square, and that will take away what we love so much and why that property is so valuable to these advertisers.”