In a major setback for two sign companies, the California Supreme Court declined this week to hear a case involving nearly 100 digital billboards in Los Angeles.
The decision upholds a lower court ruling ordering the lucrative signs to come down.
Clear Channel Outdoor, however, which put up the signs along with CBS Outdoor, said the decision does not end the battle. It is threatening to sue the city for the value of the signs, in excess of $100 million if it is forced to take them down.
The company argues that it put up the signs in the understanding that it had valid permits and it is urging the city to enter new negotiations or rewrite its ordinance to allow them to stay up.
"We are disappointed in the court's decision," said Jim Cullinan, Clear Channel Outdoor spokesman. The City Attorney's Office also refused this week to negotiate the case or relocate the signs, Cullinan said.
Clear Channel has already filed a legal claim with the city, the first step in a lawsuit. The sign company stated that it believes the signs, of which it owns 84, are worth at least $100 million.
The digital billboards are located largely in West L.A. and Hollywood. Neighbors complain about the glare and distraction of the boards, which were erected as part of a 2006 settlement.
On Thursday, Cullinan re-iterated that the sign company hopes the city works out a deal to relocate the digital displays.
The sign company is seeking an ordinance or other "legislative solution" to allows its signs to keep operating.
"However, these digital signs are valuable company assets," Cullinan said, "and if we are forced to turn them off or take them down, we will, as a last resort, seek appropriate compensation."
An official with City Attorney Carmen Trutanich's office disputed the company's arguments.
"We don't think the claim has any validity," said Special Assistant City Attorney Jane Usher.
Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, said the lawsuit warning was "despicable."
If the city ordered the signs taken down, it would be because city officials are complying with court orders, Hathaway said.
"It's outrageous to make a threat that has the potential of bankrupting the city," said Hathaway. "This company has shown its true colors."