Los Angeles is blessed with a stupendous natural environment, and a somewhat-less-so built environment. I don’t have a ready solution to the blight of Tuscan-style corner malls, but when I am named Grand Vizier of Westwoodistan my first edict will be to abolish billboards* (I’m sorry—”outdoor advertising”).
I am already aware that several humorous morning-drive-time duos are on the radio (in English and en Español), that a number of fast-food chains have newly repurposed sandwiches on offer, and that I can watch naked women dance at venues conveniently located near freeway interchanges. I don’t need a 65-foot-wide reminder.
The billboard industry has an absurd degree of influence in local politics, unmatched anywhere else, so far as I know, and the struggle against it has been going on for a long time. But I hadn’t realized just how long:
Los Angeles has been trying to get a grip on billboards since—I kid you not—1899. A headline in The Times on Oct. 3, 1899, was “Billboards to be regulated.” And the sign industry’s leader, Gaylord Wilshire—yes, that Wilshire—threatened to take the city to court: “The council has to play to the galleries … and we never pay any attention to them. We expect to oppose this ordinance … and we are confident of winning.”
*Footnote: With a grandfather/grandmother clause for Larry Flynt