Sunset Billboards Approved; Drama Delayed Between Competing Companies

8730-billboard
Debate over the tall wall at 8730 Sunset Blvd. at Sherbourne continues between competing billboard companies Regency and Ace Outdoor Advertising. (Photo by Jon Viscott)

Sunset Boulevard billboards were the hot topic Monday night as the West Hollywood City Council approved replacing two existing billboards with larger billboards and also approved a brand new billboard.

Replacement billboards will go in on the properties across from the Standard Hotel and the Tiffany Theater while a new billboard will be erected atop the old Key Club building. Meanwhile, a fourth billboard proposal, one for the top of the Grafton Hotel, was postponed until September due to a dispute between the property owner and the billboard company.

Additionally, an anticipated battle over a “tall wall” on the west facing wall of the building at 8730 Sunset Blvd. near Sherbourne did not materialize as that item was postponed until the council’s Sept. 16 meeting at the request of Regency Outdoor Advertising, headed by Brian Kennedy. Regency was appealing the Planning Commission’s decision to approve expanding the tall wall, which is contracted to Ace Outdoor Advertising. Ace also agreed to this postponement. Many residents received robo-calls in the past two weeks concerning the tall wall.

As for the billboards, the City Council approved three of the four billboards in 2011 but postponed final approval until it completed a comprehensive review of all Sunset Boulevard billboards.

That comprehensive report proved to be a bigger job than anticipated. In fact, rather than have city staff members do it, the City Council unanimously approved hiring AECOM for the job during its Monday meeting. The city will pay AECOM, an LA-based consulting firm, $219,000 for the job.

Since that AECOM report will take 18 months or longer to complete, and faced with threats of lawsuits from Kennedy about the billboards that have been in limbo for two years, the city opted to deal with the final approval for those four billboards Monday night.

They were:

8535 Sunset Blvd. across from the Tiffany Theatre – Replace a two-sided, v-shaped 16 by 25 foot billboard with a two-sided, v-shaped 14 by 48 foot billboard and raise the maximum height from 54 feet to 68 feet. The width of the v-shape on the replacement billboard will be narrowed substantially to allow for better visibility from the street and will also allow for increased visibility in the homes in the hills behind the billboard. In 2011, the council approved the changes on a 3-1 with Mayor Abbe Land voting no and Councilmember John Heilman recusing himself because he lives within 500 feet of the site. At Monday’s meeting, the council also voted 3-1 vote with Heilman again recusing himself. Ace Outdoor Advertising filed the application. Abraham Moradzadeh is the property owner.

8335 Sunset Blvd. billboard
A screenshot of the billboard currently at 8335 Sunset Blvd. at Sweetzer along the Sunset Strip.

8335 Sunset Blvd. across from Standard Hotel – Replace a two-sided, 10 by 30 foot billboard atop a roof with a pole mounted, v-shaped billboard that is 18 by 48 feet on its west-facing side and 14 by 48 feet on its east-facing side. The maximum height for the billboard increases from 60 feet to 67 feet. The council never voted on this billboard in 2011. In June 2013, it approved the matter on a 4-1 vote with Land voting against it. Monday night, the council again approved it 4-1 with Land again voting no. Edge Outdoor Media filed the application. 8335 Sunset LLC is the property owner.

9039 Sunset Blvd. atop the former Key Club building – A new two-sided 48 by 14 foot billboard will be mounted atop the building. The overall height, including the mounting pole, will be 70 feet. In 2011, the council approved the billboard on a 3-2 vote with Land and Councilmember John Duran voting no. At Monday’s meeting, it was approved on a 4-1 vote with Land voting no. Jeffrey Seymour of Seymour Consulting Group filed the application on behalf of property owner Abady Holding Corporation.

8462 Sunset Blvd. atop the Grafton Hotel – A new two-sided 48 by 14 foot billboard to be mounted on the roof of the building is proposed. The overall height, including the mounting pole, will be 70 feet. In 2011, the council unanimously approved the billboard. Monday night, the issue was postponed until the Sept. 16 council meeting due to a dispute between the Grafton Hotel, which owns the property, and Regency Outdoor Advertising, which filed the initial application on behalf of the Grafton. Regency now wants to withdraw the application completely, but the Grafton wants to proceed. Attorney Ron Turvosky, representing Regency, said Regency paid for all costs associated with the application so it has the right to withdraw it. Attorney Kathleen Truman, representing the Grafton, said Regency was not authorized to withdraw the application. The council told them to provide supporting documentation about the legality before the Sept. 16 meeting.

Each of the billboards approved comes with a development agreement that will see $10,500 paid to the city every four weeks for the next 20 years. That comes to $136,500 per year per billboard or $2.73 million per billboard over the life of the agreement. At the end of the 20 years, the owner must either remove the billboard or negotiate another development agreement with the city.

Under state law, billboards cannot be taxed, so the city receives no revenue from them except through business license fees. These development agreements are a way for the city to get a cut of the lucrative billboard advertising revenue, which can generate millions of dollars each year.

The development agreements also stipulate that the owners each pay $5,000 per year to the Sunset Strip Business Improvement District.

Concerned about the aesthetics of the support structures holding up the billboards, Councilmember John D’Amico insisted that architects should design creative and attractive support structures (not just giant metal poles) for each billboard so they will “be part of the urban landscape.” D’Amico also requested that the Planning Commission’s design review subcommittee have approval over these support structures.