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Despite finding of illegality, plan still afoot to sell advertising in parks

CATEGORY: In the News · Preservation |
On Apr 4, 2015

from 2012

In fall of 2011, the city was poised to allow supergraphics promoting Warner Bros. 3-D movie “Yogi Bear,” on fences, shelters, picnic tables, trash cans, light standards, walkways, and other structures in Holmby Park, Pan Pacific Rec Center, and Lake Balboa Park. The deal, approved by the Recreation and Parks Commission, was made by the L.A. Parks Foundation, which is not a city agency, although its Chair, Barry Sanders, is also President of the Rec and Parks Commission. According to its terms, Warner Bros. would donate a total of $57,000 to the Foundation which would then deduct marketing costs and an administrative fee before turning over $42,636 to Rec and Parks.

Park users and neighbors were blindsided by the plan. Upon learning of it, they complained to Councilmember Paul Koretz, who introduced a council motion to rescind Commission approval. At a subsequent Rec and Parks Commission meeting, the City Attorney’s Office informed its Board that their action was a violation of the city’s billboard ordinance. President Barry Sanders told the City Attorney’s Office to “make it legal.”

On April 27th, Friends of Griffith Park attended the City Council’s 2011-12 Budget & Finance Committee Meeting to advocate for proper funding for parks and were dismayed to hear Barry Sanders launch a 20-minute defense of advertising. He opened his remarks with the statement, “This is not a windfall,” admitting that the potential to be gained will not begin to address the parks’ multi-million dollar shortfall or resolve the maintenance, staffing and security losses faced by the system. Given the low return, it is fair to assume that it is the advertisers who will reap the real rewards, gaining unprecedented marketing access to L.A.’s kids.

While budget panel members Parks, Smith and Rosendahl expressed willingness to challenge the ruling against signs, Koretz supported the City Attorney. He also rejected Sanders’ comparison of supergraphic ads to Little League sponsor banners, observing that what Sanders was promoting was a quantum leap in a new and wrong direction. Koretz asked for a solution that would grandfather in league sponsor banners but continue to prohibit advertising. Sanders countered that Rec and Parks should be allowed to make its own regulations and be exempt entirely from the Building & Safety permit process by which we all abide.

For Griffith Park, the stakes couldn’t be higher. Its picnic tables, walls, fences, play structures, pathways and buildings number in the thousands. Sanders’ assertion that Rec and Parks should be exempt from the city’s permit process is also troubling. Such an exemption would sidestep the Cultural Heritage Commission review of proposed changes to landmarks triggered during the permitting process. CHC review is a reason why the public supported the Griffith J. Griffith Charitable Trust’s successful initiative to designate the Park as a city landmark.

Keeping commercial advertising out of parks is shaping up to be a citywide battle that will require all of us to pitch in. While the threat has been arrested for the time-being, the L.A. Parks Foundation is still courting potential advertisers and Latham & Watkins, (Sanders’ former law firm) is developing language that would exempt parks from the billboard ordinance. Once this is obtained, who is to say that this new scheme won’t morph into a lucrative contract to be turned over to an outdoor advertising company?

[note: from one of CD4’s postings, it would seem that in 2009, Tom LaBonge had similar thoughts regarding billboard type signage consuming much of Los Angeles. According to LaBonge “By limiting sign districts to downtown, we can curb visual clutter in other areas of the City.” We wonder if Parkland would be included in his comments.]



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