Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Some Good News For a Change: Billboard Ban Upheld; and the Angeles Forest Will Rise Again

(Photo collage via Public Ad Campaign.com.)

With so many outdoor advertising companies slapping billboards all over town -- and in many cases, ignoring city ordinances (not to mention spitting in the face of a billboard ban), it seemed like a losing battle for Los Angeles. Not so: According to the L.A. Times, a federal judge declined to halt enforcement of the city's ban against the installation of supergraphics and new digital billboards:

In a tentative ruling, U.S. District Judge Audrey B. Collins said Liberty Media had failed to show a likelihood that it would prevail with its procedural arguments against the month-old ordinance.

Liberty had asked Collins to issue an injunction and force the city’s Building and Safety Department to allow 16 new signs to go up. One billboard foe had feared that a ruling against Los Angeles would have had greater ramifications, opening the door to scores of new signs by other advertising businesses.

“My feeling was that if she ruled in favor of Liberty Media, the sign companies would be lining up outside the Building and Safety Department to get permits,” said Dennis Hathway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight.

City officials said all 16 signs sought by Liberty Media were supergraphics, which can cover the entire side of a building.

Los Angeles is fighting more than 20 legal challenges from the billboard companies opposed to its efforts to regulate outdoor advertising. The council approved a temporary sign ban in December, hoping to buy itself time to craft a new ordinance that would withstand a court challenge.

(Pic by the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.)

MEANWHILE, with most of the news coming out of the Angeles National Forest pretty depressing (the Station fire isn't even 100% contained), people are angry over L.A. Times reports that the fire could have been contained within a day or two of ignition, with little damage -- but that authorities didn't call out the big guns, figuring the fire wouldn't expand. Boy, were they wrong.

It's pretty depressing to realize that the once-vibrant forest to the north of Los Angeles is now nothing more than an ashy pit. But scientists hold out hope that the forest can eventually restore itself (as long as heavy rains, which could further the ersion, don't happen). The L.A. Times writes that we'll once again enjoy the forest... one day:

Where some see withered plants and scoured hillsides, (Forest Service plant ecologist Jan Beyers) sees decades of patient aspiration come to fruition -- the "shooters and seeders."

Trees that have lost limbs to fire will grow new, sturdier arms. Plants that have been annually depositing seeds in subterranean "seed banks" will be rewarded with young growth rising out of soil rejuvenated with nitrogen-bearing nutrients.

"There are seeds in the soil here that have been waiting decades for this chance," she said wistfully.

Indeed, for some growing things, fire is a bonanza. Certain species of conifers require heat to release seeds from their tightly closed cones. Some plants need the fire's heat to crack hard seed coatings in order to sprout. Some plants thrive on the chemicals produced from ash leaching into soil. Smaller bushes, crowded out by larger neighbors before the fire, flourish afterward in their newfound elbow room.

The seed caches of ground-dwelling rodents will be disinterred, and the still-viable seeds dispersed by ants and birds, everyone pitching in to repair their habitat...

Then there is the profusion of wildflowers that will debut in the spring. The fire followers: purple lupines, morning glories, California poppies, larkspurs, wild sweet peas and snapdragons.

"Ten years from now," Beyers said, taking in the charred hillside and smiling, "you can come back here and never know there was a fire at all."

I guess we'll check back in 2019. But more immediately, I wonder when the Angeles Crest Highway will re-open -- and whether we'll be able to make our annual drive into the Angeles forest this winter to play with the snow.

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