By Gary Walker
Los Angeles World Airports is moving ahead with a planned sign district at Los Angeles International Airport and residents who live near the airport had an opportunity to learn more about the proposal at a July 16 public hearing in Westchester.
LAWA is proposing development and implementation of a sign district at LAX to permit new off-site or non-airport-related signage, within two distinctive sub-areas: landside and airside.
On the landside sub-area, airport officials are requesting approximately 80,722 square feet of proposed new off-site signage throughout the Central Terminal Area.
That includes 8,131 square feet of supergraphics, 10,368 square feet of wall signs and digital display signs.
On the airside sub-area, approximately 289,600 square feet of new off-site signage is proposed on 153 passenger boarding bridges.
Those numbers reflect the maximum amount of new locations and signage requested by LAWA in its environmental impact report. Currently, LAX is permitted to and has routinely installed airport-related or on-site signage on passenger boarding bridges, parking garages, columns, sky bridges, and terminal facilities, airport offical say.
These signs are already permitted and utilized at LAX, including tenant signage on the terminals and on passenger boarding bridges, on-site related wall signs and supergraphics on sky bridges, as well as the existing billboard signs at the Park One Property in Westchester.
LAWA representatives say no signs are expected on or near the new Tom Bradley International Terminal or the Theme Building.
Airport officials say given the current signage that already exists at LAX, they anticipate no real change or very little change to the visual environment.
New off-site signage in the landside sub-area would be contained within the Central Terminal Area and the new off-site signage on the airside sub-area would be limited to the passenger boarding bridges, according to LAWA Environmental and Land Use Planning Director Lisa Trifiletti.
Trifiletti said the proposed sign district does not require approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.
LAWA representatives say pilots will not be affected by the bright lights of a digital billboard because there will be constraints on the size, density and the level of intensity of the signs.
“Through our detailed sign regulations, as well as through the LAX sign ordinance, LAWA will control sign placement, size, total area, sign type, and direction and use of illumination and digital technology,” Trifiletti explained.
“These comprehensive restrictions are designed to protect public and aviation safety and to prevent any potential traffic hazards inside the Central Terminal Area. The safety of all of our passengers, visitors, pedestrians, commercial vehicle operators and drivers, and especially our pilots and air traffic controllers is our number-one primary objective.”
Trifiletti said that when the sign district application was first submitted to the Department of City Planning, federal, state and local sign code regulations, the LAX airport plans, including its Master Plan and Specific Plan were carefully reviewed, as well as a number of sign research studies, other sign districts, and the proposed city sign ordinance.
“Prior to submitting, we vetted the application with the FAA tower, to ensure that all lighting was properly placed, shielded and focused to avoid glare or unnecessary light spill-over, and that the proposed project would not result in any electrical interference with aeronautical lights that may be detrimental to operation of aircraft or aircraft instrumentation,” she added.
An FAA spokesman said the federal agency was unaware of the sign district project and therefore could not comment on it.
A member of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa’s Airport Relations Committee, who is usually critical of LAX, thinks the sign district plan may have some merit.
“As long as they are not impacting the community and as long as they are not distracting drivers, I don’t have any problem with it,” said Denny Schneider, who is also on the neighborhood council. “We’re not going to try and micromanage them.”
The Westchester-Playa council heard a presentation from Trifiletti on the LAX sign district last year.
According to the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, the total square footage of commercial advertising signs to be placed on terminal walls, wrapped around columns and attached to the faces of pedestrian bridges and parking structures would be the equivalent of 550 full-size billboards.
The coalition, whose executive director is Venice resident Dennis Hathaway, is a nonprofit organization representing groups and individuals committed to “defending the urban landscape of Los Angeles from a proliferation of billboards and supergraphic signs.”
The organization has been at the forefront of challenging outdoor sign companies that have erected hundreds of billboards on the Westside over the last decade.
The supergraphics, digital signs and wall signs at LAX would not be visible from city streets.
City Planning Director Michael LoGrande said in a June 21 letter that while the regulations for the proposed sign district would supersede existing rules in the city’s municipal code, the proposal also includes a mechanism to remove several billboards that are under LAWA’s control.
“The estimated implementation for the construction of the new signage within the project is 2013,” LoGrande wrote.
The sign district in tentatively slated to be reviewed by the Planning Commission Aug. 22. It will require approval from the City Council.