WeHo Approves Grafton Billboard; Lawsuit Likely

Grafton bomb scare

West Hollywood’s City Council voted 4-1 to approve a new v-shaped billboard atop the Grafton Hotel at its Monday night meeting despite threats of a lawsuit from Regency Outdoor Advertising.

Meanwhile, 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 continued to an indefinite date pending more information.

As for the Grafton Hotel, in 2011, Regency, headed by Brian Kennedy, filed an application to erect a v-shaped 48 ft. by 14 ft. billboard on the roof of the hotel, which owns the property at 8472 Sunset Blvd. near La Cienega. The council unanimously approved that billboard in 2011, but failed to complete the required “second reading” necessary for “final approval.”

At its Aug. 5 meeting, the council brought the billboard back for that final approval only to discover Regency and the Grafton were embroiled in a bitter dispute. As a result, the council delayed its decision until Monday night’s meeting.

Attorney Ron Turovsky, representing Regency, said the billboard company wanted to withdraw the application completely and has the right to do so because it paid for all application costs. Attorney Todd Elliot, representing the Grafton, said the hotel wanted to proceed with the application and that Regency was not authorized to withdraw it.

Turovsky said if the Grafton wanted to assume the application, it should go back to the beginning of the process, have an environmental review done and get Planning Commission approval before the council heard it.

According to City Attorney Mike Jenkins, the council is caught in the middle of a private dispute.

“We are the body empowered to issue the entitlement,” Jenkins said. “We have no stake in the outcome of this dispute.”

Councilmember John D’Amico agreed they should not get involved with the dispute, but merely consider the merits of the application.

“Whoever’s name is at the bottom of [the billboard] is of no interest to me,” D’Amico said.

Councilmembers John Heilman and Jeffrey Prang both felt the Grafton should be allowed to take over the application.

“It’s clear to me Regency was working as an agent of the Grafton,” Prang said. “No matter what decision we make today, we’re going to be sued [over approving the application or over not getting a new environmental review] … rather than delay the inevitable, we should just proceed.”

Regency has a long history of filing lawsuits.

Councilmember John Duran, who voted against approval, said it was “clear Regency is the applicant, not a co-applicant.”

“In the best interest, knowing we are going to be sued, I would rather start with a clean slate and just have [the courts] consider the environmental issues,” Duran said.

Mayor Abbe Land pointed out that Regency was fine with the environmental review done in 2011, when it was the company’s own application.

The Grafton will pay the city $10,500 every four weeks ($136,500 per year) for the next 20 years.

Land noted that the property owner, not the billboard company, is the one who pays the $10,500. If the property were sold, the new owner would have to continue paying the fee.

“The entitlement runs with the land,” Land said.

The city ordered the Grafton to reimburse Regency for the application costs it spent.


1 Comment
  1. Let’s see… two big companies fighting for the extremely lucrative right to visually pollute. At least the City gets a cut of the revenue, but Regency has been at the center of other nasty disputes in the past and has pushed the limit on Sunset Strip billboards & tall walls.

    The Grafton is getting a pretty nice entitlement that greatly enhances the value of the real estate. I hate to say it, but the annual $136,500 ($2.73 million over 20 years) is chump change compared to the increase in property value and the amount of money that can be made with the billboard. I guess it’s better than nothing the City is getting for most of the other billboards that aren’t subject to this kind of agreement.

    But if Regency loses out here, then I’m thrilled.

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