It’s Time for Los Angeles to Reconsider Digital Billboards

For many years my husband bravely served as a Culver City police officer, a role that I have long held and continue to hold immense respect for. I am incredibly proud of his service to our community, but when medical issues forced him to retire earlier than we had planned, our family faced many unknowns.

Thankfully, a smart investment my father made back in 1993 proved to be our saving grace. That year, Dad was approached with a proposal he knew had great potential — the opportunity to erect a billboard on property he owned in West Los Angeles. Always a forward-thinker, Dad made the decision to lease the space and put one up.

The income generated by the sign allowed us to send our daughter to college, give back to our community and, after my husband’s medical leave, pay his health care bills and support our family. Unfortunately this all changed in 2013, when our sign and many other digital billboards throughout the city were turned off due to an outdated policy. That was nearly six years ago, and still no new policy has been put in place.

Since then we have intimately felt the loss of the sign that our family came to rely on. It’s affected our livelihood by taking away a source of income we depended on and planned for, especially given my husband’s medical retirement. But it has also left us with the burden of uncertainty from not knowing when and if we will be able to depend on it once again.

And, on a larger scale, Angelenos throughout the city have missed out on important opportunities to better our communities. Progressive cities throughout the nation have passed modern billboard policies that are providing lessors, like my family, with certainty while negotiating agreements that are resulting in citywide billboard reductions and ongoing community benefits funding.

Now L.A. has the opportunity to join these progressive cities by passing a comprehensive sign ordinance. And there is currently such an ordinance before the City Council. This policy has been fully vetted and was purposefully developed to benefit our communities, modernize L.A. and reduce the number of billboards citywide.

The ordinance will reduce the total number of billboards significantly by allowing appropriately-located billboards — like mine — to be converted to digital in exchange for the removal of many more existing vinyl billboards in neighborhoods throughout the city. It’s smart policy that’s a win for my family and for residents.

It’s also a win for all neighborhoods, as the proposed ordinance will establish a new source of community benefits funding to address critical issues our neighborhoods face today. The chance to create a new funding stream in our city is pretty rare, so this component of the ordinance is especially valuable and would help neighborhoods to tackle challenges such as homelessness, youth and recreation programs, sidewalk and road repairs and more through investments tailored to their needs.

I’d say that makes this policy a win-win-win — a reduced overall number of billboards, increased community funding and broader access to modern, affordable advertising platforms in appropriate areas. There’s no reason to hold those benefits back. Now is the time to move forward with this proposed sign ordinance. Families like ours have already waited too long.

Linda Roth

Manhattan Beach