Bad Sign For AEG Billboards

The California State Senate shot down a bill Sept. 16 to create exemptions to a state ban on new freeway billboards just one week after the Los Angeles city council approved the sale of signage rights to AEG around the city’s Convention Center.

The exemption would have included billboards for certain projects in downtown L.A., including AEG’s L.A. Live development, and in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Backers vowed to bring the measure back next year, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Supporters of the exemption clearly miffed other senators by bringing the plan forward in an after-midnight session while California’s long-delayed budget was still being fought over.

“This is worse than earmarks. Earmarks are at least legal,” Transportation Committee chairman Sen. Alan Lowenthal told the Times. “These billboards … are illegal.”

The Convention Center is adjacent to the $2.5 billion L.A. Live complex, which includes the Staples Center and Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, a luxury hotel, broadcast TV studios, movie theatres and restaurants. It’s also bordered by the interchange of highways I-10 and I-110, better known as the Harbor and Hollywood freeways.

The city council approved the sale of signage rights to AEG for advertising the district’s venues and events, as well as the convention center, and would bring money into the city’s coffers. AEG spokesman Michael Roth was unavailable to comment.

“It means $5 million to $10 million dollars in revenue for the city of Los Angeles,” Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas said, according to the Times.

It’s not clear how the vote ultimately will affect AEG’s plans to put dozens of electronic billboards on and around the L.A. Convention Center. The city council’s approval hinged on obtaining the state exemption. But if backers successfully revive it next year, the council vote would appear to mean the path would be cleared to begin construction.

The legislation, presented after midnight with other trailer bills attached to the state budget, failed on a 17-17 vote.

“None of us were in the mood for extraneous special interest crap thrown at us in the wee hours of the morning,” Sen. Gloria Romero, who voted against the bill, told the Times.