California Appellate-Court Decision Preserves Distinction Between On- and Off-Premise Signs

Lower-court decision creating identical rules for both would've been problematic, ISA official says
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On March 10, California’s Appellate Second District Court issued a ruling in Lamar Center Outdoor LLC v. City of Los Angeles asserting that local governments may issue differing regulations for on- and off-premise signage. The decision affirms the 1981 Metromedia v. San Diego ruling in favor of treating both differently, as well as, more recently, 2015’s Reed v. Town of Gilbert decision (see ST, August 2015, page 60). The ruling reverses a lower-court decision in Lamar’s favor.
“This is a tremendous win for the sign and graphics industry,” said David Hickey, the International Sign Assn.’s (ISA) vice president of government relations. “The court’s decision confirms ISA’s contention that communities should be allowed to regulate on-premise signs differently than off-premise signs – billboards – if they so choose, and as they lawfully have been able to do for decades. If the distinction was found to be unconstitutional, it could have created a number of spacing, size and permitting issues, and potentially led more communities to completely ban some kinds of on-premise signs, such as EMCs. Any of these potential outcomes would have adversely affected the businesses that use these kinds of signs.”
ISA and its regional affiliate, the California Sign Assn., filed amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs in favor of maintaining the on-/off-premise distinction.