Dear Editor – No Billboards

Light-bulb-0003-300x198On June 25, 2014, the City Council considered a proposal from the Carlyle Group regarding the creation of a Freeway-Oriented Sign District along the 405 Freeway generally located along commercially zoned property between the City’s northern and southern City boundaries (the “Initial Proposal”). I was then, and am now shocked and appalled that the Council, under any circumstances, would even think it was okay to consider changing our No Billboard Sign in Culver City Municipal Code.

The Caryle Group, and their silent cohorts, Clear Channel are predatory developers whose only goal is to make money for themselves despite the damage they do to a community. The LA City council found out what sneaky people these billboard companies were when they agreed to allow a limited amount of electronic billboards in the City, and Clear Channel interpreted the agreement, rather, ignored the terms of the agreement, and put up electronic billboards all over the City. It cost the City, or should I say the TAXPAYERS, millions of dollars to fight then to close down those billboards.

Now, since June 2014, the Carlyle Group has broadened their Initial Proposal and is now proposing a “Hospitality & Entertainment District Specific Plan” (including a sign district component). Under the new proposal, the sign component which is no longer limited to freeway-oriented signage, but includes other sign locations within the Proposed Project area. OF COURSE. It’s the switch and bait developer game.

Do we really want Billboards, electronic and otherwise, shining into our homes and blinding us as we drive on the freeways? NO. NEVER. The citizens of Culver City spoke before and a LAW WAS ENACTED. No one in Culver City wants billboards. THESE ARE NOT CULVER CITY PEOPLE – these are predator developers trying to find ways to maximize their returns so they can build bigger vacation homes for themselves away from the lights of the city (which they created).

Their Proposed Project includes the following “elements” (developer speak for ways to make money for them”):

1. A specific plan that focuses on the area’s unique freeway adjacent location and character with emphasis on the hospitality and entertainment industry and the area’s physical and economic area improvements. THIS IS MORE THAN DOUBLE SPEAK. This is an attempt at false flattery to the City while finding ways to build more and make more money for them. not Culver City, for them.

The area’s unique freeway adjacent location is not unique – it was thrust upon us by Cal Trans who has no shame in ruining neighborhoods for the sake of the mighty dollar. Cal Trans itself has created excessive dirt and sound pollution, which has increased tenfold since the Freeway expansion. Cal Trans told the neighbors that they would put in state of the art soundwalls to decrease the noise. Cal Trans lied. The sound walls are not state of the art and the noise has increased to the point where the neighbors in Sunkist Park cannot enjoy being outside of their homes. The pollution has increased to the point that everything in Sunkist Park is covered in a black coat of freeway and tire dirt.

Now, developers want to further pollute our neighborhoods with flashing lights that distract drivers and turn our neighborhoods into 24 hour advertisements, while increasing the density of drivers and noise and dirt pollution.

2. They suggest the creation of a new hotel-mixed use development district with “thematic signs” to create area identity and a new gateway to the City. Really? More double speak. I would suspect the Developers are scheming on ways to make even more money out of the property so they are scrambling to finds ways to maximize their take, at the expense of people who live in Culver City and adjacent. There is no need for or desire for a new gateway to the sign with “thematic signs” by the people of Culver City.

3. The suggest that this will create a walkable commercial district providing new workforce housing opportunities. Again, double speak. This area is not condusive to more housing and certain we do not need any more commercial building. Isn’t the moster that is Playa Vista enough? Simply put,there is not enough room and it would create too much traffic.

4. They alluded to a coordination with major stakeholders to fund the project using a variety of funding tools, including infrastructure financing districts, public/private partnerships, and private reinvestment. AGAIN, DEVELOPER DOUBLE SPEAK for “give us tax breaks and what we want and we will build”. Forget it.

5. The propose identification of potential areas to permit signs through specific development standards. WE DO NOT NEED BILLBOARDS OR SIGNS, HERE OR ANYWHERE IN CULVER CITY. We have a sign ordinance. We have worked very hard to make sure it is clear and we enforce it. They, nor anyway, has the right to try and “get around” our ordinances by trying to dangle insigificant amounts of money in front of the council.

This is a slipperly slope. Once the council gives these developers their “thematic signs”, future developers throughout Culver City will be coming to the well, going “me too, i want that too, you gave it to Carlyl, give it to us, why not us, we are going to sue you if you don’t give it to us too!”

6. The Developers allege there will be a sign revenue sharing with the City to promote economic development and to provide a replacement for former Culver City Redevelopment Agency (CCRA) funding lost as a result of the dissolution of redevelopment agencies by the State of California in 2012. BOLDERDASH! ANY REVENUE REALIZED WILL BE MINOR COMPARED TO FUNDS LOST AS A RESULT OF THE DISSOLUTION OF THE REDEVELOPMENT AGENCY. THIS PROPOSAL IS A RED HERRING AND DISINGENUOUS.

7. As to their allegation that the sign would provide Funding of streetscape, bike and pedestrian amenities, street graphics and similar improvements to help rebrand the area and create a new mixed use development neighborhood. BOLDERDASH AGAIN! I CANT UNDERSTAND WHERE THEY THINK THEY ARE GOING TO CREATE A MIXED USE NEIGHBORHOOD. This would require, again, modification of the zoning codes for that area, and frankly, should never happen.

8. The developers what to create design standards for locating freeway-oriented signs based upon orientation, lot size, distance from freeway and establishment of a signage design theme to create a unique place and integrate signs with buildings and surroundings. BILLBOARDS CREATE NOTHING BUT POLLUTION – VISUAL AND LIGHT!

9. The developers try to trick the City by saying that the use of the signs for digital art during non-advertising periods, featuring digital artists and programming of digital art images for individual signs and collectively throughout the District. Digital artwork to be coordinated among sign participants creating continuous visual displays. NONSENSE. THEY WILL NEVER DO THIS. IF LEFT TO THEM, COMMERCIALS WILL BE DEFINED AS DIGITAL ART IMAGES. This is just another flim-flam way of trying to wipe the “you know what” off of this proposal.

THE DEVELOPERS SAY, IF CULVER CITY WANTS ALL THIS WONDERFUL STUFF THEY ARE GOING TO GIVE US, by implementing the Proposed Project it would require Culver City adopting a limited exception to the City-wide ban on billboards for the Proposed Project area. AND THE ANSWER IS NOW AND WILL ALWAYS BE FROM THE PEOPLE OF CULVER CITY A RESOUNDING NO. NOT NOW, NOT EVER.

Laura Stuart

www.culvercitysymphony.org

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