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Ammari v. City of Los Angeles

United States District Court, C.D. California

December 20, 2013

SAMI AMMARI, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF LOS ANGELES, Defendant

Page 1140

For Sami Ammari, an individual, Plaintiff: George M Wallace, Jr., Wallace Brown and Schwartz, Pasadena, CA.

For City of Los Angeles, Defendant: Kimberly Anne Erickson, LEAD ATTORNEY, Los Angeles City Attorneys Office, Los Angeles, CA.

OPINION

OTIS D. WRIGHT, II, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Page 1141

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF SAMI AMMARI'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [26] AND GRANTING DEFENDANT CITY OF LOS ANGELES'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [30]

I. INTRODUCTION

Plagued by a surge in mobile billboard advertising and advertising signs affixed to

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motor vehicles, the California Legislature expressly empowered local authorities to regulate these activities. Defendant City of Los Angeles accepted the state's invitation by enacting Los Angeles Municipal Code section 87.54, the language of which largely echoes the statutory authorization. Section 87.54 prohibits " advertising signs" on motor vehicles unless they are " permanently affixed" in one of the specified manners and do not exceed the overall dimensions of the vehicle.

Plaintiff Sami Ammari brought a facial challenge to the ordinance under various federal and state constitutional provisions, including the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Ammari and the City filed cross motions for summary judgment.0 Ammari argues that the ordinance is content-based because it differentiates between signs that are for " decoration, identification, or display" and those that are not. But the City disagrees, contending that the ordinance is a content-neutral, reasonable time, place, and manner speech regulation. Since section 87.54 precludes no specific category of expressive content, the Court finds that the ordinance is content-neutral. And while not an exemplar of regulatory clarity, the Court finds that the City struck a reasonable balance between citizens' well-grounded free-speech interests and the City's demonstrated public-safety concerns. Section 87.54 therefore passes muster under the First Amendment. The Court accordingly GRANTS the City's Motion for Summary Judgment and DENIES Ammari's Motion.

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND [1]

On August 25, 2010, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 2756. (Stip. ¶ 1.) The Governor approved the bill, and it became effective on January 1, 2011. ( Id. ) Assembly Bill 2756 authorized local authorities to regulate, among others, " mobile billboard advertising displays." [2] (Stip. Ex. 1.)

In 2011, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 1298. (Stip. ¶ 5.) AB 1298 added a new subsection (p) to California Vehicle Code section 21100, which empowered local authorities to " regulat[e] advertising on motor vehicles parked or left standing upon a public street." Cal. Veh. Code § 21100(p)(1) (effective January 1, 2012). But the Legislature exempted advertising signs that were " permanently affixed" to a motor vehicle. Id. § 21100(p)(2).

On March 7, 2012, the Los Angeles City Council adopted Ordinance No. 182083, which created new Los Angeles Municipal Code section 87.54. (Stip. ¶ 3, Ex. 2.) The City found that the Legislature had given local authorities like the City Council the ability to regulate motor-vehicle advertising signs under the amended version of California Vehicle Code section 21100(p)(1). ( Id. Ex. 2.) The City Council also found that the Legislature declared that local authorities' ability to regulate motor-vehicle advertising did not apply to " advertising signs that are painted directly upon or are permanently affixed to the body of, an integral part of, or fixture of a motor vehicle for permanent decoration,

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identification, or display and that do not extend beyond the overall length, width or height of the vehicle." ( Id. ) The City Council expressed concern that advertising signs on motor vehicles that are improperly attached, placed over the windows, or exceed the dimensions of the vehicle pose a " safety risk to vehicular traffic and to pedestrians." ( Id. )

On April 17, 2013, the City Council adopted Ordinance No. 182516, amending section 87.54 to conform to the California Legislature's amendments to Vehicle Code section 21100(p)(2). (Stip. ¶ 7.)

The current version of section 87.54 reads:

A motor vehicle may contain advertising signs that are painted directly upon or are permanently affixed to the body of, an integral part of, or fixture of a motor vehicle for permanent decoration, identification, or display and that do not extend beyond the overall length, width, or height of the vehicle. " Permanently affixed" means any of the following: (a) painted directly on the body of a motor vehicle; (b) applied as a decal on the body of a motor vehicle; (c) placed in a location on the body of a motor vehicle that was specifically designed by a vehicle manufacturer as defined in California Vehicle Code Section 672 and licensed pursuant to California Vehicle Code Section 11701, in compliance with both state and federal law or guidelines, for the express purpose of containing an advertising sign. A license plate frame installed in compliance with California Vehicle Code Section 5201 may contain an advertisement on that license plate frame and/or a paper advertisement contained within the license plate frame if the paper advertisement was issued by a motor vehicle dealer.

(Stip. Ex. 4.)

Plaintiff Sami Ammari owns several businesses which he advertises via, among others, signs affixed to motor vehicles parked on Los Angeles public streets. On May 29, 2012, Ammari filed suit against the City, alleging claims for violation of freedom of speech under the United States and California Constitutions; privileges and immunities under both Constitutions; and substantive due process. (ECF No. 1.) Ammari only seeks a facial challenge to section 87.54's validity. (Stip. ¶ 9.)

On November 7, 2013, Ammari and the City both filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 26, 30.) Each party timely opposed the other's Motion. (ECF Nos. 35, 37.) After reviewing the parties' briefs, the Court noted that section 87.54's explicit text appeared to reach all land in Los Angeles, public or private, as well as parked and moving vehicles--notwithstanding the parties' arguments that assumed a more limited scope to the section. The Court therefore ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefs on these issues in advance of the summary-judgment hearing. (ECF No. 42.) On December 16, 2013, the parties filed their supplemental briefs. (ECF Nos. 43, 44.)

On December 17, 2013, the Court held a hearing on the Motions and took the matters under submission. Those Motions are now before the Court for decision.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment should be granted if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must go beyond the

Page 1144

pleadings and identify specific facts through admissible evidence that show a genuine issue for trial. Id. ; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Conclusory or speculative testimony in affidavits and moving papers is insufficient to raise genuine issues of fact and defeat summary judgment. Thornhill's Publ'g Co. v. GTE Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 738 (9th Cir. 1979).

A genuine issue of material fact must be more than a scintilla of evidence or evidence that is merely colorable or not significantly probative. Addisu v. Fred Meyer, 198 F.3d 1130, 1134 (9th Cir. 2000). A disputed fact is " material" where the resolution of that fact might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1968). An issue is " genuine" if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. Where the moving and nonmoving parties' versions of events differ, courts are required to view the facts and draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007).

IV. DISCUSSION

Ammari argues that section 87.54 violates several federal and state constitutional provisions, including the First Amendment. He asserts that the ordinance is content-based and therefore subject to strict scrutiny. But the City disagrees, contending that the section 87.54 is a content-neutral, reasonable time, place, and manner regulation. The Court considers each argument in turn.

A. First Amendment

1. Overbreadth and suppression ...


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