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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Great Sign Debate Rages on!

In March 2009, I brought you the news concerning the great sign debate in Los Angeles. Wednesday, March 18, 2009, a divided Los Angeles Planning Commission failed to overhaul the city's billboard law with some members saying a proposed sign ordinance grants too many exceptions to the outdoor advertising industry. The panel, which needed five votes to send a rewritten sign law to the City Council, deadlocked on a series of 4-3 votes. However, the Los Angeles Planning Commission re-voted Thursday, March 26, 2009 to recommend dramatically reworked restrictions on signs that would ban digital billboards and super graphics -- the vinyl signs stretched across the sides of buildings -- throughout most of the city. The commission voted 6 to 3 to forward the ordinance to the City Council.

The Great Sign Debate, for all intents and purposes, had ended. Well... then again...

As of February 22nd, 2010, Los Angeles City Atty. Carmen Trutanich (who took office July 1 after promising during last year's election campaign that he would crack down on unpermitted billboards) launched a fresh assault against the outdoor advertising industry, announcing the filing of a lawsuit alleging that supergraphics were unlawfully installed on 12 buildings throughout the city.

The nuisance-abatement suit contends that multistory vinyl ads were placed illegally on the Sherman Oaks Galleria, the Howard Hughes Center in Westchester and other buildings in North Hollywood, Sherman Oaks and elsewhere.

The civil complaint filed Monday accuses outdoor advertising company World Wide Rush LLC and 26 associates, property owners and sign installers of putting up the massive posters in violation of a city council ban that aimed to stem the proliferation of supergraphics and digital billboards. The city's lawsuit names 27 defendants, including World Wide Rush, which already has a billboard case pending before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The company is seeking to strike down the city's ban on the installation of new supergraphics.

The complaint, which also alleges violations of California's Outdoor Advertising Act and other state laws and local ordinances, argues that supergraphic signs endanger the covered buildings' occupants, distract drivers and hurt the look of streets.

It seeks the signs' removal and damages that could total more than $10 million, as well an injunction prohibiting new signs from being installed.

Chief Assistant City Attorney Jeffrey Isaacs said Tuesday that the lawsuit, which lists 12 Los Angeles locations where illegal signs were allegedly installed, is part of his office's new strategy of aggressive sign law enforcement. Council members said they cast their votes for the blanket ban in hopes of heading off the types of legal challenges that bedeviled previous billboard regulations that carved out exceptions permitting some signs.

In one of those challenges, a federal judge agreed with an argument by World Wide Rush that the exceptions raised free speech concerns because they gave city officials too much leeway in deciding which signs to allow.

Officials are appealing that decision, which led to a contempt proceeding after officials issued citations against the company despite the permanent injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins in 2008 that protected 10 of the 12 locations named in this week's lawsuit. Isaacs said the latest lawsuit does not conflict with Collins' order because the supergraphics were installed after the city approved new ordinances governing outdoor advertising.

The city has been on the defensive for years as it has sought to regulate such advertisements, with an estimated 30 lawsuits challenging its sign laws and billboard inspection fees. Trutanich said he intends to seek fines of up to $5,000 for every day that an illegal supergraphic is on a building. In cases in which a sign is illegally placed next to a freeway, he also intends to seek a $10,000 fine, plus $100 for each day the sign is up. World Wide Rush urged the court to impose a $100,000 fine against the city, plus $10,000 for each day that Trutanich fails to drop the older case. The sign company also called for Collins to hold the city in criminal contempt and to order Trutanich, the L.A. City Council and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa into federal custody.

Now now boys! Maybe what we need here is a time out? I know it worked well when my son got all puffed up and bent out of shape. Of course, he was younger then. These days he knows how to hold his breath and count to ten before losing it. Not that I'm knocking either view point. Really, I swear I'm not. But gentlemen, for the love of peace, grow up and stop hacking at each other like little boys! Federal custody? Seriously? Over SIGNS? OK... I don't see it. But hey, I'm just a writer. With that in mind, I will quietly exit stage right and leave you two to duke it out.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Small Business Visibility

Customers can't buy from you if they don't know your business exists. This is an obvious statement, but I have found that many small business owners who are trying to increase their sales don't realize how "invisible" their businesses are.

Small business owners should spend some time investigating just how visible their business is and what they can do to increase their visibility. The following are some things you would want to consider.


How visible is your advertising to your target market? To answer this question, you first need to be able to describe your targeted customers and understand their habits. Then take a look at your advertising methods and compare that with what your customers read, watch, listen to, etc.

The right people need to see your message about your business and understand that you can meet their needs. Conducting a thorough "marketing audit" of your business can help you determine the best advertising methods to implement to be more visible to the right people.


How visible is your actual physical location to your customers? One way to gauge this is by simply asking customers who do come in whether they had trouble locating the business, and if they did, why.

Another way is to really take an objective look yourself. Is your sign highly visible? How easy is it to read, not only from nearby but from the street? Are you taking advantage of traffic flow?

How attractive is your building or your portion of the building? Is there anything obstructing the view of your business and can you change that? You can also have persons unfamiliar with your business do some "mystery shopping" to see what they have to say about the visibility of your location.


How visible is your business to those searching the Internet for your product or services? Don't just put yourself out there and hope for the best. It takes money, time and effort to increase the chances that your business will be found by the right people.

Your Web site's ranking with the search engines is affected by things such as the domain name that you use, your use of pictures, the content of your text, your use of social media such as Face Book and Twitter, the age of your Web site and more.

You need to get professional assistance to be sure your Web site is properly designed and maintained for maximum benefit.

Also, you could have some "mystery shopping" of your Web site done to find ways to improve its visibility and effect on your bottom line. And always be sure to direct potential customers to your Web site through your other promotional methods.


How visible are you and your business in your community? You can get so busy working on the everyday operation of your business that you don't take the time to get out and do some needed networking.

Are there organizations in your community in which you should become involved? This could be a chamber of commerce or business association but not necessarily.

Are there organizations with goals that you truly care about with which you could become involved? Are they in any way related to your business? How can you make a contribution to the improvement of your community?

The above are a just a few examples of opportunities to improve the visibility of your business and increase sales revenue.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

General laws regarding placement of bandit signs

Flyposting (the act of placing advertising posters or flyers in illegal places) or placing bandit signs can be illegal types of advertising depending on how you use them. It’s illegal in the sense that posters or snipe signs are placed in NO POSTING areas. These types of signs are temporary advertising methods and are categorized as street spam.

It is illegal to put up signs on private properties, especially without permission from property owners. Posting on public properties without acquiring permits from your local government is also a big NO NO. Often, a specified area is provided for the public whereby all various notices may be placed.

Often, bandit signs are placed by small-scale businesses giving notice of promotions or sales. Political activists also resort to flyposting in order to avoid arrest or discovery of identity. Property rights, littering, and visual appearance have been raised as issues against flyposting. Seen as a nuisance, illegal signs damage properties and distract motorists. Don’t be surprised to find out that even well known companies have had run-ins with the law for placing bandit signs.

If you want to put up temporary signs in your local area, consult your local government about laws you should avoid breaking. Illegal advertisements can cause you prosecution and heavy fines. Make sure your signs do not fall in categories that are prohibited from public adverts. These categories are social, religious, and recreational advertisements. It is best to check before you post the signs anywhere and enter into legal formalities with the law.

Authorities are angered by signs that ruin or dirty city or country views. Snipe signs on lampposts, buildings, trash bins, and railings are illegal. Owners of these illegal signs are given a notice by mail or telephone about the illegality and are given a deadline for removal. Often, they are given 24 hours to ensure the removal of all illegal signs they have placed. To discourage others from imitating these illegal methods of advertising, enforcers often place stickers or notices on top of these signs. At times, the signs are immediately removed upon discovery, most especially on highways or public roads.

Illegal signs on highways and public roads can be distracting and dangerous. Reports of motorists getting into accidents have been documented. The government takes this seriously. The Highways Act 1980 states that it is a crime for people/entities to obstruct highways. Instruction for immediate removal is given. Otherwise, heavy fines are to be expected by the offenders. Local authorities reserve the right to take down and dispose of any illegal signs without further notice.

Check local laws before flyposting of any kind. Spare yourself from costly fines, fixed penalty notice, and even prosecution in court. It is best to do it within the confines of the laws but most people circumnavigate by putting these up on Friday and taking them down by Monday morning.

Content submitted by Noelle Noble

Monday, February 1, 2010

State Ordinance Regulations for Signage

Please ensure that you follow local and state guidelines for signage! I have listed each state below. Clicking these links will take you to a page that breaks out the states by city. By clicking on your chosen city, you will be presented with that cities codes. Locate the sign ordinance and ensure that you are within the regulations.

Step 1 - Understand the importance of sign ordinances to community beautification efforts. Local conservation groups and community-improvement organizations try to limit the size of signs, preventing them from becoming a distractive nuisance.

Step 2 - Speak with your city council about regulations restricting the use of signs attached to your buildings. Each community has ordinances that regulate the size, placement and content of signs that may be unique from other communities. In order to obey local laws, you should approach the city council with any unusual signage requests.

Step 3 - Consult with your state's highway department about billboards and logos placed on highway exit signs. While private property owners can place any advertisement they want on a billboard, most highway departments help regulate the size of billboards to avoid distractions to drivers. Highway department officials can also help you re-size your logo to meet exit-sign standards and promote your business effectively.

Step 4 - Make sure you obey signage ordinances that regulate the placement of private signs adjacent to public signs. Your signs cannot block those indicating street names, speed limits and traffic warnings because of public safety concerns.

Step 5 - Avoid violation of city laws that govern the color and design of business signs. While some communities allow business owners freedom to choose their design aesthetics, most cities prohibit bright colors or flashing lights to avoid traffic issues. Likewise, city councils will often prevent business owners from creating signage that is lewd or inappropriate for children.

Step 6 - Learn about the National Scenic Byways Program. Featured on, it is devoted to protecting highways and waterways from over development, including excessive signage.

State Ordinances:

New Mexico
S Dakota
N Dakota
West Virginia
N Carolina
S Carolina
New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island
New Hampshire

If you have information pertaining to any of these ordinances (changes that are not listed, etc.), please email me or post them in a comment below!


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