Court upholds L.A. ban on billboards


A federal appellate court issued a ruling Tuesday upholding Los Angeles’ citywide billboard ban, handing a rare victory to the city in its uphill battle to regulate outdoor signs, reports The LA Times. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the city’s 2002 outdoor ad ban does not violate a sign company’s 1st Amendment right to free speech, reversing a lower-court ruling.

Outdoor advertising company Metro Lights LLC had argued that the city could not prohibit new "off-site" signs — images that advertise products not sold on the immediate property — while at the same time selling advertising space on city-owned bus benches and kiosks. Metro Lights had accused the city of auctioning off "1st Amendment rights to the highest bidder."

Stephen Freitas, Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) Chief Marketing Officer tells RBR/TVBR: “The outdoor advertising industry supports community regulation of outdoor advertising and enforcement of planning and zoning ordinances. The decision by the Ninth Circuit in Metro Lights is the latest in a long line of federal and state court decisions which set the parameters for how communities can exercise that right. Those decisions support the fair and reasonable regulation of the outdoor medium.  The new decision by the Ninth Circuit does not change that fundamental principle of constitutional law.”

"This is strong, if rather sloganeering, language, but after reviewing the case law on which Metro Lights relies, we believe it to be little more than a canard," the court wrote.

Paul E. Fisher, the Newport Beach attorney who represents Metro Lights, said his client had not decided whether to appeal the decision. The opinion, if upheld, could influence lawsuits over municipal sign laws across the nation, Fisher said.

"It’s certainly a significant ruling, and it is a blow to the outdoor advertising industry," he told the paper.