A 2013 Los Angeles mayoral candidate attempted to navigate a potentially politically dangerous topic last month by offering to assist Venice residents in their quest to keep commercial signage and corporate logos off of Venice Beach.
At the Venice Neighborhood Council’s Nov.15 meeting, City Councilwoman Jan Perry said while she is in favor of a plan by the Los Angeles Parks Foundation to place logos and sponsorship banners in city parks throughout Los Angeles, she would also back a counter proposal to keep them away from parks and recreational areas where residents openly oppose them, such as on Venice Beach.
“I represent most of the parks in downtown and South Los Angeles,” Perry, who was one of the first lawmakers to declare her candidacy for mayor, told the audience. “The only way that they can get extra money is by having local businesses support them and make donations to the local park organizations, and in exchange for that, sometimes the businesses put up signs on the field.”
Perry subsequently offered her support to allow Venice Beach to take a pass on having commercial signage on the beach if the community is opposed to them.
“No, if you dislike that, what I would suggest – and actually, I will help you – is draft ‘opt-out’ language,” the councilwoman recommended. “Have your neighborhood council draft language that will exempt you from (not allowing commercial advertising on Venice Beach) and I’d be happy to put that in the ordinance.”
The city’s Planning Commission has recommended rejecting a plan submitted by the foundation that would permit logos and banners on Venice Beach and other parks, including others on the Westside.
An Oct. 5 planning report stated that a City Council committee had requested an ordinance to allow signs and banners in parks, but the council did not review the motion.
“A motion introduced on May 3 proposed that the City Council instruct the Planning Department, with the assistance of the city attorney, to prepare an ordinance to permit banners and signs, to include off-site signs at city-owned facilities and city parks,” deputy planning director Alan Bell wrote in the report. “However, this motion was never adopted by the City Council and was referred to the planning staff.”
In previous interviews with The Argonaut, Los Angeles Parks Foundation Executive Director Judith Kieffer denied that her organization is considering a plan that would bring corporate logos to Venice.
“The foundation has no sponsorship proposals for any city parks,” she said.
On its website, the foundation describes its mission as one to “embrace, preserve and expand recreational opportunities and facilities of our over 400 city parks that serve all the people of Los Angeles.”
Kieffer said recognizing donors that contribute to the city’s parks with banners or a logo is not the same as erecting billboards, which are prohibited under city law.
“With generous donations from our sponsors, there is an opportunity to have their name displayed,” she explained.
Perry is one of the architects of the proposal to allow private companies to erect banners in parks and recreational facilities.
Groups of protesters assembled on both sides of the Westminster Elementary School auditorium in Venice and waved homemade signs before and during Perry’s remarks to the council.
Venice Neighborhood Council President Linda Lucks found Perry’s suggestion interesting. “It’s good for some communities to have that option,” said Lucks, who invited Perry to address the local council on a variety of Venice-specific topics.
Dennis Hathaway, the executive director the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, remains skeptical of Perry’s offer. “I have no idea if it’s workable,” Hathaway, a Venice resident, said. “I have my doubts that it can be implemented.”
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl said he is “all ears” regarding his council colleague’s idea.
“I’d like to see the city and the community come up with a strategy that everyone can live with,” he said. “I welcome all suggestions and strategies from my colleagues.”
Some residents in Venice have expressed concern about what they see as Rosendahl’s inconsistent views on banners and logos in city parks and outdoor advertising along the city’s major thoroughfares.
While he has been perhaps the city’s most outspoken legislator on decreasing the number of billboards that have exploded on the Westside in the last several years, the councilman has indicated that it would be unwise from a financial standpoint to dismiss a certain type of logo or banner in municipal parks without discussion.
“The idea of a public/private partnership is a very good one,” he said. “The reality is, we have to look for ways to bring in more revenue.”
Hathaway said he is somewhat surprised by some of the councilman’s statements.
“Bill Rosendahl seems to me to be supporting (commercial advertising), specifically for Venice Beach,” Hathaway said in an earlier interview. “He appears to have gone over to the other side on this.”
Resident David Ewing, who attended the meeting, is also skeptical of Perry’s proposal.
“I don’t like to see public space occupied by commercial interests,” said Ewing, who together with Rosendahl, Hathaway and dozens of others walked Council District 11 in 2008 to catalog unpermitted billboards. “I mistrust her motives.”
Perry said she respects Venice residents’ right to reject any commercial signs or business logos, but she feels that respect should be returned for those communities who do have an interest in generating revenue through commercial signage in their parks.
“I don’t believe in jamming something down people’s throats that they don’t want, but I think we need to allow for other parts of the city where they do want to do this and where they are comfortable with this, because it provides opportunity for funding to continue in the parks,” the councilwoman told the audience.
Ewing said he realizes that some communities like Perry’s are open to having signs in their parks, but he remains leery of the councilwoman’s offer to help Venice.
“I understand that she is very eager to have revenue in her district, but I also feel that she carries water for the sign industry,” he asserted.
Hathaway finds it hard to believe that potential advertisers would not want to see their signs at the world famous Venice Beach, with its popular boardwalk. “The advertisers are going to want to go where there is a lot of traffic,” Hathaway noted.
The anti-blight advocate said he would be open to hearing more of Perry’s proposal, but her Nov. 15 offer did not offer any specifics. “It was short on any details,” Hathaway said.
Rosendahl said he was glad that Perry came to Venice to meet his constituents and offer her assistance with a proposal for keeping commercial signs away from Venice Beach.
“It shows great respect for Venetians and I think all of us need to see mayoral candidates in our district,” he said.