West Hollywood, California Planning for Massive Billboard Revitalization on Sunset Boulevard

(Editor’s note: All of the following information is gleaned from a website called “West Hollywood — The Creative City.” https://www.weho.org/city-hall/city-departments-divisions/community-development/long-range-and-mobility-planning/ongoing-plans-studies/sunset-boulevard-off-site-signage-st

The West Hollywood Planning Commission has published an 88-page document entitled the “Sunset Strip Off-Site Signage Policy,” a “final initial study” that would add 18 digital and static billboards to a street well known for its creative outdoor advertising. Two decades ago, the 1996 Sunset Boulevard Specific Plan was launched, and this update intends to accentuate that. The policy states “opportunities for up to 20 digital billboards may be permitted by 2032.”

The “Vision” portion of the study states “Billboards are good neighbors, contributing positively to the excitement of the Strip, while not negatively impacting nearby residential neighborhoods.” It also states that recent amendments are designed to “support new technology and encourage more creativity.”

To tie technology and creativity together, the policy stipulates that each digital billboard would “contribute 25% of programming inventory to arts programs.” Traditional billboards would provide “a contribution of 96 hours of arts programming or financial equivalent per years.” The “content refresh rate” (aka, dwell time) is a minimum of 16 seconds.

Buildings with one “off-site” sign would be allowed to add a second one. Buildings with two existing off-site signs could remodel one or both. Digital billboards would be limited to 1000 square feet per project. Each building would be limited to 1500 additional square feet of billboard.

As for brightness, the policy states, “Sign Luminance (candelas per meter squared, or nits) measured on the sign surface perpendicular to the Sign Face shall not exceed 6,000 candelas per meter squared during daylight hours, and 300 candelas per meter squared for evening hours.”

The policy states, “There is a long tradition of creative advertising on Sunset Boulevard that enhances West Hollywood and regional culture through the music and entertainment industries. The Sunset Boulevard Strip Billboard District (“SSBD” or “District”) builds on this tradition to create the opportunity for events, festivals, and coordinated visual campaigns that bring together technology, art, entertainment and urban design in an outdoor ‘gallery’ the length of the Strip, showcasing West Hollywood as a place for cutting edge culture.”

The city would definitely benefit from this new signage indirectly through additional tax revenue. However, West Hollywood would also benefit directly and immediately because “As part of required approval, all Temporary Creative, New, Modified, Traditional, and Digital Billboards shall be required to join the Sunset Strip Billboard District and pay annual operating fees.” Although the policy identifies three different tiers for these fees (modifications to traditional billboards, new traditional billboards, and digital billboards), it doesn’t specify any percentages or other numbers as to what those fees might entail.

The policy divides the area into seven zones. An inventory at the end of the policy identifies 76 existing billboards.

The policy addresses existing Tall Walls (aka, supergraphics on the sides of buildings) and large-scale video screens, which can be revised, but no new signs of these types would be permitted.


Photo by John Lopez

Wade Swormstedt

Wade Swormstedt

Wade is Executive Director of the Foundation for the Advancement of the Sign Industry. Formerly he was Editor and Publisher of Signs of the Times magazine.

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