My dissertation investigates the impact of outdoor advertising on Los Angeles and community response to a proposal to regulate its placement through zoning. Evidence suggests that outdoor advertising is an economically significant component of contemporary urban development and an important signal of the emerging consumption-based, experience economy. But, despite its apparent financial resilience, outdoor advertising negatively impacts both social and environmental qualities of community through its placement and content. Notably, the nuisance created by outdoor advertising is heightened in non-white, less well off communities. Using a combination of temporal, spatial, and social approaches, this study answers the question: How might planners begin to account for the ambiguity of outdoor advertising as a component of the urban landscape?
I provide background on the current state of outdoor advertising in Los Angeles and the previous planning processes that contributed to its appearance. Outdoor advertising policy is documented using accounts from the popular press, public documents, and comments submitted since the first outdoor advertising regulation in the city was promulgated. Evidence suggests that outdoor advertising has long been a contentious part of the landscape of Los Angeles with local business interests and residential interests arguing over its impacts. Efforts to protect residents from the nuisance of outdoor advertising were frequently thwarted by those suggesting the primacy of economic benefits.
In the contemporary context, my work investigates the impact of outdoor advertising to determine if harmful content is more prevalent in particular types of communities. The impact of outdoor advertising is analyzed using a longitudinal, geo-referenced, photographic database of the location and content of identically zoned neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Content is coded into five categories: 1) addictive behaviors, 2) violence, 3) unhealthy eating, 4) misogynistic portrayals, and 5) inappropriate for young children. Although regulated by identical land use, a disproportionate number of advertisements promoting negative messages were observed in non-white, lower-income communities.
Finally, my dissertation investigates community response to the most recent proposal to regulate outdoor advertising to determine if its presence or other social and economic factors influence public participation in its formulation. Logistical regression is used on a dataset of the location of outdoor advertisements found citywide as well as public comment records related to the recent sign ordinance revision. Here, community response to outdoor advertising is positively associated with communities that are older, white, educated, and well off but negatively associated with impact. This seems to occur despite results that also indicate that non-white, less-educated, poorer communities experience outdoor advertising to an increased degree.
Despite land use controls intended to limit the impact of outdoor advertising, there exist spatial disparities in both the impact and the types of communities that participate in regulating its placement. By focusing attention on economic outcomes, local officials and outdoor advertising interests prevent the implementation of innovative land use regulation that might better serve the economic, social, and environmental interests of Los Angeles. If both the impact and response to outdoor advertising are spatially organized in ways that suggest disparity it becomes incumbent upon planners to engage communities in ways that help individuals understand the benefits and risks associated with outdoor advertising.