A state Appellate Court has agreed with Caltrans that Los Angeles-area building owners cannot restore a highrise-sized advertisement along the Santa Monica Freeway, nor can they seek damages from the state for being forced to take the so-called wallscape down.
Had Caltrans lost the appeal, California would have found itself in violation of federal highway advertising rules, and could have lost as much as 10% of its federal highway dollars.
"Losing was not an option on this one," said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. "The risk wasn't just financial. This was a safety issue. L.A. drivers have enough distractions to contend with already."
Building owners West Washington Properties LLC had sought $12 million in damages they believed they suffered from being forced to reduce the massive "wallscape" from the side of a building along the Santa Monica (I-10) Freeway at Washington Boulevard. The Appellate Court judges unanimously ruled in favor of Caltrans on that point, as well as various other legal challenges including interpretations of the Outdoor Advertising Act.
Caltrans had earlier required that the sign be reduced to about a sixth of its original size. What was once an 8,000-sq-ft image had become about 1,200 sq ft. This provision is included in the state’s Outdoor Advertising Act as well as the 1965 federal Highway Beautification Act that it mirrors.
The matter had previously been heard in a state administrative hearing, Superior Court proceedings and an earlier challenge in the Appellate Court.
The wallscape was already on the building when West Washington Partners LLC purchased it, and the partners apparently believed its long existence would exempt it from enforcement of law. The Department issues valid permits to almost 10,000 displays annually and several hundred notices of violation every year.