Op-Ed: Nothing is Adding Up in Los Angeles
October 10, 2023

This op-ed was written by Dustan Batton, executive director for Scenic Los Angeles, and is published under permission and endorsement of Scenic America.

Last month the City Planning Commission voted to move forward with Metro’s Transportation Communication Network. This is incredibly disappointing for a number of reasons, but mainly for the fact that the numbers do not add up.

  • Metro claims that over a 20-year span the new digital signs will generate a revenue of $300M-$500M. That is a massive spread, which indicates that they do not have an accurate idea of how much revenue will be generated over 20 years of this program. Additionally, that figure breaks down to roughly $3-$5 annually for Angelenos, who already voted for a half-cent sales tax increase to specifically fund transportation projects. Does Metro believe they wouldn’t be open to an additional $5 per year?
  • Next, there is no public documentation of the deal points between Metro & Allvision, the vendor who operates Metro’s signs and would manage the TCN digital displays. A record request was submitted and the most recent agreement on file at Metro expired in 2020. Are Metro and Allvision operating under an expired agreement? Where are the deal points for the new agreement? Where are they getting these numbers from?
  • Additionally, there are currently over 1000 illegal billboards operating in the City of Los Angeles. Billboard companies like Lamar, Clear Channel, and Outfront continue to profit off of billboards that are unpermitted, and now the city wants to permit more signs? We believe that every illegal billboard in LA County must be taken down before a single permit to build a new Metro sign is granted. Period.
  • Finally, this opens the city and Metro up to a slew of lawsuits due to spot zoning. The TCN ordinance, as currently drafted, creates special use districts for 80 signs to be built and operate. This totally disregards the current sign ordinance and sign districts in place.

We are asking for the following:

  1. We want to see the current agreement in place between Metro & Allvision.
  2. We want to see the deal structure and how these revenue numbers are being built.
  3. We want all illegal billboards in LA City to come down before a single permit is granted.
  4. We want council members to stop selling out our communities in the name of equity. These paltry figures being projected by Metro should be a slap in the face to every Angeleno. Selling out our communities and degrading their health and integrity by adding blight is not what we voted for! Time and time again our community representatives have prioritized the dollar. Over 71% of Angelenos polled do not want more signs in their communities. Will our councilmembers listen this time?

If the City of Los Angeles won’t listen to its citizens regarding the TCN, we ask the City to please hear and consider these points. It would be a tremendous opportunity to inject some transparency into a process that has been fraught with inconsistencies from the beginning.