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Banning Mobile Billboards a Tricky Proposition

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An unhitched trailer with an ad | Photo via BanBillboardBlight

An unhitched trailer with an ad | Photo via BanBillboardBlight
Mobile billboards, whether the trucks with a sole purpose of parking an advertisement on a street or an unhitched trailed left on the side of the road, are a topic of exasperation to many around Los Angeles. So much so, the city is looking into the possibility of banning the tactic outright.

They are sources of blight, are a public safety concern and are cluttering up streets meant for parking by residents and business customers, explained Chris Olsen, Policy Director for Councilman Dennis Zine, at council transportation panel yesterday.

"This motion is intended to give us new tools," said Olsen, describing the current method of posting no unhitched trailer signs, which only pushes the problem to other neighborhoods, does nothing absolutely at all--that's because parking tickets can just be considered the cost of doing business by trailer owners--or is forcing advertising companies to leave trailers attached to vehicles, therefore making the advertisements legally "hitched."

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Although burdensome, Olsen even suggested posting signs at every entrance point to the city in order to ban mobile advertising. Big ideas man, Councilman Tom LaBonge, asked if the city could make a condition in business licenses that would say something like, "break a city law, get your business license revoked."

"That's the best suggestion I've ever heard," said Alan Lewis with LADOT, who added his own idea, making it more specific: that conditions of a business license is that you cannot use mobile advertising.

That's a potential problem, pointed out Councilman Paul Koretz. What if a business using mobile advertisements within city limits is located outside Los Angeles? That would mean local businesses would be restricted from advertising on Los Angeles city streets while businesses in places such as Burbank would not (example: A Burbank car dealership leaves an unhitched trailer in North Hollywood)

The city recently won a case against Lone Star Security, which challenged the city for enforcing 72-hour parking rule, which can result in trailers (and any car for that matter) in being towed. Lone Star has lost appeals and will try to bring it to the U.S. Supreme Court, but city attorneys predict the case will be turned down.

The City Attorney's Office has been instructed to work on creating a ban and will report back to the city's planning and land use committee next.