Client Successes May 31, 2018

CEQA Challenge to Billboard Project Defeated

BB&K Attorneys Defended West Hollywood’s Sunset Blvd. Sign Approval

CEQA Challenge to Billboard Project Defeated

Best Best & Krieger LLP partners Gregg Kettles and Lauren Langer successfully defended the City of West Hollywood in a lawsuit challenging the City’s approval of a billboard project on Sunset Boulevard, adjacent to the famous Rainbow Bar and Grill. After a hearing on the merits, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied  petitioner Jose Villanueva’s challenge and ruled in the City’s favor on May 14.

The City approvals upheld in the challenge include:

  • a resolution conditionally approving a billboard permit and adopting a Mitigated Negative Declaration under the California Environmental Quality Act;
  • an ordinance adopting a zone map amendment in conjunction with a development agreement and
  • an ordinance approving a development agreement.


The project involves removing a legal, non-conforming roof-mounted sign and other illegal signage, and construction of a double-sided vertical billboard mounted on a distinctive hexagon-shaped pole.

The petitioner claimed the City approvals violated CEQA because they did not adequately evaluate the project’s impacts on aesthetics and historic resources. The court rejected these theories, noting that the MND found that the project is designed to minimize interference with views of signs for the Rainbow and the Roxy Theater (next door). The court also observed that the pole-mounted billboard would not diminish the Rainbow building’s association with the history of music in West Hollywood.
 
The petitioner also claimed that the City approvals violated the Sunset Specific Plan. The City Council acknowledged that the project is inconsistent with certain height, dimension and location provisions of the SSP. Nonetheless, the Council found that the project was allowable under the SSP’s “alternative proposal provision.” This provision states that the City retains discretion to approve an alternative proposal that does not meet the SSP standards, as long as the alternative proposal furthers the goals of the SSP and is consistent with the purpose and intent of the standards that would otherwise apply. The court found that, under this alternative proposal provision, the City retained discretion to do exactly what it did here.
 
The court rejected the petitioner’s remaining theories.
 
The case is Villanueva v. City of West Hollywood, Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BS168386.

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