Council to vote on digital signs at LAX

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Los Angeles International Airport officials hope to raise money for future construction projects by lining the inner traffic loop's parking structures and terminal buildings with digital billboards.

A new LAX sign district proposal before the City Council, if approved Wednesday, is likely to add millions of dollars to fund improvements, but LAX officials have not yet estimated how much the airport might earn in ad sales. Ads inside terminals already bring in about $25 million per year.

The maximum square footage of ads (digital and non-digital) that could go up outdoors within airport grounds is more than four football fields laid end-to-end.

The majority of ad square-footage would be non-digital signs on jetway ramps that passengers use to get from terminal onto aircraft. Each of 181 jetways, could have two 800-square-foot signs visible to passengers within the terminals. Some jetways that are visible from nearby homes would not have the illuminated signs.

The ads most visible to the traveling public would be those on the inner traffic loop on parking structures, passenger bridges and terminal buildings. The area is big enough to carry up to 142,000 square feet of signage but LAX officials are not asking for all that.  

Airport officials say they would use 42 percent of the inner traffic loop area for ads, or about 60,562 square feet. Of that portion, 37,109 square feet would be digital. That's nearly half an NFL football field worth of LEDs, with images changing every 8 seconds. (For reference, an NFL football field is 67,500 square feet.)

Signs outside LAX could come down

As those signs go up, many billboards outside LAX would come down, which is one reason why the proposal is finding support.

Westchester restaurateur Christopher Warren welcomes that. "I'd rather the signage on my bar or pizzieria catch your eye than these billboards that have nothing to do with any of the local businesses in the area," he said.

His pizza joint is across the street from one of the region's busiest In-n-Out drive-thrus, and he picks up many customers from among those who decide not to wait in the long lines.

Don Duckworth, executive director of the Westchester Town Center business improvement district said the addition of signs inside LAX will fund wayfinding signs within Westchester and Lincoln Village.

" We're very positive on it because it has meaningful implications for our community," Duckworth said.

It would also fund an unspecified amount of grants to local nonprofits serving Westchester's 60,000 local residents, he said.

Distractions, blight and competiton

The major objections to the sign district come from drivers who fear they or others might be distracted by the illuminated signs.

"When you're coming into the airport trying to figure out where you're going, what if you're distracted by the digital images?" said Amber Joy Smith of Sherman Oaks.

She was awaiting her afternoon flight Monday at the small grassy park at Sepulveda Blvd. and Lincoln Blvd. It's tucked  between LAX and the In-n-Out, a popular spot to see planes land almost directly overhead.

Dennis Hathaway, of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, had criticized the amount of digital advertising proposed under the sign plan, and his concerns led the airport to cancel one of the supergraphic posters that would have been visible to drivers outside the airport. But when the plan went to the city's planning and land use committee a few months ago, he endorsed the LAX sign district because it would dismantle 20,000 square feet of off-airport billboards.

The sign district plan merely lays out the legal framework for future ad sales contracts and the existing billboard buyouts, so it could still be some time before drivers encounter the digital ads when driving into LAX.

Regency Outdoor Advertising has repeatedly objected to the sign district because it could mean its signs within airport parking lots and along Sepulveda could be bought out and dismantled. The company was asking the city for new signs within the airport as additional compensation, but so far, the city has refused.


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