After 6 years of profiting to the tune of hundreds of millions of additional dollars from their digital billboards that the CA Court of Appeal unanimously decided should have never been allowed in the first place, Clear Channel Outdoor ("CCO") is now threatening the City of Los Angeles with more litigation if the City dares to comply with the Court's Dec. 10, 2012 order to have the digital billboards removed. The letter, sent Friday February 22, 2013, contains reasoning that is not unlike a bank robber who threatens to sue the police for confiscating the money that he robbed.  (This was covered in an LA Times article today: http://lat.ms/13ek98C)

Fortunately for the City, the legal arguments in the letter have each either been already heard and rejected by Courts, or are plainly contradicted by well established precedent. Therefore, if the City follows the Court of Appeal's order and demands removal this ill-gotten digital billboards as it should, any suit brought by CBS Outdoor or Clear Channel Outdoor (who have sued the City numerous times before), will likely be dismissed at the outset.  Hopefully the City does not fall for these shenanigans, and hopefully the politicians on the side of CBS Outdoor and CCO who have made motions in the last few months to preserve these illegal digital signs, won't use this letter of empty threats as leverage to push through a new law that would grant amnesty to these billboards.  

It's estimated that CCO & CBS have made an additional approximately $500,000,000 from these illegal digital billboards above what they would have made as traditional billboards.  (CCO's letter says that the value of the signs is well in excess of $100MM.  CCO is just being modest: the true number is too large and would embarrass them if they printed it. But fortunately, a thief cannot sue the victim for having the value of the stolen goods once the goods are returned to the victim. Likewise, CCO cannot sue the City for the potential value of digital billboards that are removed when those digital billboards were illegal from Day One. This is especially true when CCO would still walk away with additional hundreds of millions of excess revenue from these digitals, while at the same time the City and its citizens will walk away with absolutely nothing for having been subjected to this nuisance for the last 6+ years).  

Can anyone - even a Councilmember in CCO and CBS's corner - truly feel bad for these mega-corporations that the law has finally caught up with them and that they can't continue to make these same, illegally gotten, runaway profits?


Can CCO argue with a straight face that if the illegal digitals are removed that CCO will be entitled to "restitution" or to "damages"? 


It is common sense and it is well-settled CA law that a party may not make claims for detrimental reliance or vested rights or otherwise claim a property right in something that was built pursuant to a permit that was issued in error or that was prohibited by law.  


One might wonder why CCO take can't a loss like a good sport, take their half-a-billion dollar gain, pack their digital billboard equipment up, and take it back to San Antonio?  


Maybe CCO and their parent company are so over-leveraged and in so much trouble (see article here) that they are desperate to keep making these runaway profits at all costs - even at the cost of the residents of L.A., who are also the target customers of their billboards. 


CCO doesn't have a moral or legal grounds to sue the City anymore. On the contrary, perhaps it's time for the affected neighbors of these signs, whose rights have been trampled and who have been unjustly subjected to these per se nuisances for the last 6+ years to join together and file a class action lawsuit against these companies to recover damages and restitution for what they've been put through. 

Below is an attachment which contains the letter from CCO sent Friday.

Of course, CCO sent this threatening letter on the eve of the first meeting of the "Billboard and Visual Landscape Visioning Group", which occurred on Saturday, Feb. 23.  This group's purpose is to discuss what the "visual landscape" of Los Angeles should look like in the future - whether or not there should be digital billboards in the future at all, and if so, how/where/when/for what/etc.  If you care about the future "visual landscape", you are encouraged to attend. The meetings are not invite-only - they are held in accordance with the Brown Act, and therefore open to the public, and the public will have an opportunity to speak. 

While CCO and CBS are trying to use this group (and legislation that comes out of it (if any)) to retroactively legalize their illegal digital billboards, as well as to "divvy up" the City of Los Angeles in terms of where to plant more digital billboards in the future, others in the group wonder if the future "visual landscape" of Los Angeles should have any digital billboards at all. 

Those of you who care about L.A., and want to make sure that there isn't another backroom deal or a special law passed to benefit solely these mega-corporations and their illegal digitals, are encouraged to attend.  The next meeting is on this Tuesday, February 26, from 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM in Room 525 (the "Rotunda Conference Room") at City Hall, 200 N. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.  The 3rd and final meeting after the one on Tuesday will be held on Thursday, March 7, from 9 AM - 11 AM in the same place. The invitation to the event is attached below.

Please sign the petition (or get a friend who believes in restoring the rule of law in Los Angeles to sign) here: http://chn.ge/XJYnlo

We already have 600+ signatures and the City Government cannot ignore our voices any longer!

clear_channel_empty_threat_letter.pdf
File Size: 93 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

working_group_invitation.pdf
File Size: 935 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

 


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