Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Thursday signed a bill allowing Los Angeles to sweep mobile advertising trailers off Chatsworth streets.
"We introduced a motion in July 2010 that would be automatically triggered if AB 2756 would pass, directing the city attorney to draft an ordinance to regulate the unhitched trailer billboards," Councilman Greig Smith said.
AB 2756 requires that unhitched ad trailers may only be placed in parking lots and parking garages–not on the streets. The City Council can now move forward on an ordinance banning the signs.
"Our office worked closely with Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D, San Fernando Valley) who authored the bill that would allow cities in California to enact their own laws to regulate or even ban the trailer signs. We helped him craft the bill and helped him in his outstanding and successful effort to get public support for the legislation out in the communities," Smith said. Mike Feuer (D, Los Angeles) co-sponsored the bill.
Smith represents Council District 12 which includes Chatsworth.
"Our position has always been that these unhitched trailer signs are more than an eyesore – they are a blight and a safety hazard in our community. They obstruct drivers' view of the road, take up parking space, often fall over in high winds and become even more of an obstacle, and are one of the most common complaints we hear from constituents," he said.
"We want the strictest possible regulations as soon as we can get it to crack down on this problem," he said.
"We expect fully that Bruce Boyer, whose Lone Star Security & Video Inc. has been a major source of these trailers, to sue. We will see him in court," Smith said.
Indeed, Boyer, has threatened legal action. "The 14th Amendment [gives me] equal protection," he told Chatsworth Patch. "Am I exempt from exercising my First Amendment enumerated rights? If I pay my vehicle registration fees, why should I not have equal rights to my streets?"
The issue has long been a controversial one. Residents all across the San Fernando Valley have found the trailers inconvenient and even dangerous. The trailers support upright, tall billboards and are often anchored by a cement block. Because they have license plates, they have been placed in parking spaces, just like other vehicles.
Quality of Life, Traffic Hazard
Councilman Smith said the trailers "hurt the quality of life in our neighborhoods and pose a traffic hazard. My office has been working together with [the Los Angeles Police Department, the city Department of Transportation], the city attorney and community stakeholders to find long-term solutions to this problem. The Blumenfield and Feuer bill, which we have fully supported from day one, should finally give us the tools to get them under control."
Smith's office also worked closely with the Chatsworth Neighborhood Council to clear the streets of the unhitched trailers. Even so, many have remained on Mason Avenue, Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Nordhoff Street and elsewhere.
"We've gotten hundreds of calls, thousands of e-mails," said Matt Myerhoff, Smith's communications director. "People consider them to be intrusive. They make it hard to see the roadway. You have to ease your way around them. They take up parking spaces, and they're eyesores," he said.
Myerhoff said that until now, ridding the streets of the trailers hasn't been an easy task. Originally, local officials were required to post "no unhitched trailer" signs at every entrance to the city. With so many entry streets in Los Angeles, that was impractical. Also, "it's tricky, because [it involves] the First Amendment," he said. "We can't ban the advertisements; we can't say 'you're not allowed to put up any or certain advertisements.' But we can regulate how and where [mobile ad trailer owners] are allowed to park them."
Zine, Krekorian Opposed the Trailers
"The state legislation specifically allows municipalities the right to ban [the mobile trailers]," said Myerhoff. City Councilmembers Dennis Zine and Paul Krekorian said they would be happy learn of the governor's signature. Zine has been particularly vocal about the issue, and Krekorian has objected to the severe safety issues he says the trailers pose.
"While Councilmember Krekorian respects the freedom of speech rights afforded to all of us, he also believes that when it comes to mobile billboards it should not come at the expense of public safety or have an impact on the character of local neighborhoods," said Areen Ibranossian, Krekorian's deputy chief of staff. "The state Legislature has passed a bill that would allow municipalities the right to control mobile billboard advertising, and the councilmember supports that bill because it would allow the city to ensure that mobile billboards do not impact public safety [since many billboards are on the sides of roads] and that they do not impact the character of local neighborhoods."
Not all businesses see unhitched trailers as a good form of advertising. Allied Motion Advertising owner Charlie Lagola is opposed to them. "They're a 'hard target' ad. They're placed specifically in front of your face for the only purpose of exposing the ad to eyeballs," he said. Lagola's ads, by contrast, are placed on trucks that are destined for a certain location and have a purpose other than showing the ad – "soft ads," as he refers to them.
Now that AB 2756 has become law, moving the mobile advertising trailers off the streets won't necessarily unclog the issue. With the public and city officials supporting the legislation, a city ordinance expected to move ahead and Boyer promising to fight restrictions at every level … well, as Lagola says, "[It's] a congestion problem."