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Wayne Charles and Fort Self Storage v. City of Los Angeles

December 1, 2010

WAYNE CHARLES AND FORT SELF STORAGE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF LOS ANGELES, A CALIFORNIA MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Audrey B. Collins Chief United States District Judge

ORDER RE: CITY'S MOTION TO DISMISS COMPLAINT AND REQUEST FOR INJUNCTIVE RELIEF AND MOTION FOR A MORE DEFINITE STATEMENT

Pending before the Court is Defendant City of Los Angeles's (the "City's") Motion to Dismiss Complaint and Request for Injunctive Relief and Motion for a More Definite Statement, filed on November 11, 2010. (Docket No. 21.) Plaintiffs Wayne Charles and Fort Self Storage, Inc. ("Plaintiffs") opposed on November 15, 2010 and the City replied on November 22, 2010. This matter is set for hearing on Monday, December 6, 2010 at 10:00 a.m., but the Court finds it appropriate for resolution without oral argument. Fed. R. Civ. P. 78; Local Rule 7-15. The Court also VACATES the Scheduling Conference set for that day. For the reasons below, the motion to dismiss is GRANTED and the motion for a more definite statement is DENIED as MOOT.

FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

A. Introduction

This is yet another case in the saga involving the City's attempts to regulate the proliferation of commercial billboards in Los Angeles. This case, however, raises only narrow as-applied claims for declaratory and injunctive relief and damages based on the City's classification of Plaintiff's proposed signs as commercial, which are prohibited by the City's ordinance regulating signs throughout the City (the "Sign Ordinance"). (Compl. ¶ 26 ("The only real issue in dispute is whether the content of the initial proposed sign, and other proposed signs, is commercial, and thus prohibited by the Sign Regulations, or noncommercial, and thus permitted.").) In denying a motion for a preliminary injunction, the Court already concluded on a nearly identical record that the City properly classified Plaintiffs' proposed sign as commercial, which barred Plaintiffs' claims. (Docket No. 25.) The Court reaches the same conclusion here.

B. The Sign Ordinance

Article 4.4 of the Los Angeles Municipal Code ("LAMC"), which contains the City's Sign Ordinance, does not prohibit signs bearing "ideological, political, or other noncommercial message[s]" if they are otherwise permitted by that Article. LAMC § 14.4.4(A). It does require a permit for any off-site commercial sign, which is defined as "a sign that displays any message directing attention to a business, product, service, profession, commodity, activity, event, person, institution or any other commercial message, which is generally conducted, sold, manufactured, produced, offered or occurs elsewhere than on the premises where the sign is located." Id. § 14.4.2. Plaintiffs' proposed sign would be an off-site "temporary" sign under the City's Sign Ordinance, defined as "[a]ny sign that is to be maintained for a limited duration, not to exceed 30 days, including paper signs and other signs that are not permanently affixed to the ground or building." Id. § 14.4.2. Temporary signs are allowed under the following circumstances:

Sec. 14.4.16. TEMPORARY SIGNS.

A. Permit Required. Notwithstanding any other provision of this article, a building permit shall be required for a temporary sign, pennant, banner, ribbon, streamer or spinner, other than one that contains a political, ideological or other noncommercial message. The permit application shall specify the dates being requested for authorized installation and the proposed location.

B. Area.

1. The combined sign area of temporary signs shall not exceed two square feet for each foot of street frontage.

2. The combined sign area of temporary signs, when placed upon a window and any other window signs shall not exceed a maximum of ten percent of the window area.

C. Time Limit.

1. Temporary signs that require a permit shall be removed within 30 days of installation and shall not be reinstalled for a period of 30 days of the date of removal of the previous sign. The installation of temporary signs shall not exceed a total of 90 days in any calendar year.

2. Temporary signs that do not require a permit shall be removed within 30 days of the date of installation of the sign.

D. Location. Temporary signs, including those that do not require a building permit, may be tacked, pasted or otherwise temporarily affixed to windows and/or on the walls of buildings, barns, sheds or fences.

E. Construction. Temporary signs may contain or consist of posters, pennants, ribbons, streamers or spinners. Temporary signs may be made of paper or any other material. If the temporary sign is made of cloth, it shall be flameproofed when the aggregate area exceeds 100 square feet. Every temporary cloth sign shall be supported and attached with stranded cable of 1/16--inch minimum diameter or by other methods as approved by the Department of Building and Safety.

Id. § 14.4.16.

Two other provisions of the Sign Ordinance prohibit certain signs located near freeways:

Sec. 14.4.5. HAZARD TO TRAFFIC.

A. Prohibition. No sign or sign support structure shall be erected, constructed, painted or maintained, and no permit shall be issued, if the sign or sign support structure, because of its location, size, nature or type, constitutes a hazard to the safe and efficient operation of vehicles upon a street or a freeway, or which creates a condition that endangers the safety of persons or property.

B. Hazard Referral. The Department of Building and Safety shall refer the following to the Department of Transportation for hazard evaluation and determination prior to the issuance of a building permit:

1. All permit applications for signs that will be visible from and are located within 500 feet of the main traveled roadway of a freeway; and

2. All other permit applications and any signs that are determined by the Department of Building and Safety to have a potential for hazard.

C. Hazard Determination. The Department of Transportation shall return to the Department of Building and Safety each application so referred to it together with a statement of its determination. If the Department of Transportation determines that the sign or sign support structure will constitute a ...


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