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Burbank clamps down on roving ads after 'topless maids' hoopla

March 08, 2013
  • A van touting topless maids parked on Olive Avenue in Burbank last year.
A van touting topless maids parked on Olive Avenue in Burbank… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

This story has been amended, see note below for details.

Burbank is clamping down on roving billboard ads after brightly colored vans touting topless maid services caused a stir and prompted complaints from the public.

Under a new ordinance, vehicles with attached signs or billboards aren't allowed on city streets. This after Hot Topless Maids vans and other roving ads in and around Burbank last year prompted officials to address what many called "visual blight."

“What we’re capturing with this ordinance is those signs that are bolted to a van, leaned against a van, trailers that are unhitched and left in public right of way,” said Deputy City Planner Patrick Prescott at a meeting last week.

The law exempts vehicles whose advertisements are permanently pasted or painted on. For example, a pizza delivery car would be exempt, Prescott said.

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Additionally, the city will no longer require businesses who advertise on their company vehicles to obtain a license to do so.

Senior Assistant City Atty. Joe McDougall said the ordinance is “viewpoint neutral,” and does not regulate the content on the mobile advertising vehicles.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s puppy adoption, political ads or topless maids,” McDougall said, adding that the ordinance merely centers around the design of the ad and whether it falls under the exemptions.

Vans or trucks with plywood billboards bolted to the exterior also pose safety risks, officials said.

“Is that going to fall into the street while someone is driving or riding in a bicycle pass?” Prescott asked.

Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and face a $250 to $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

Councilman David Gordon was the sole dissenting vote against the ordinance, stating that the punishments were too harsh, especially for out-of-towners who likely won’t be familiar with the law.

But interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse said the strictness of the ordinance would target those who may abuse the existing law.

“What you don’t want to do is provide a loophole for somebody,” LaChasse said. “We don’t want to have to enforce the law. If we can get people to willingly comply with the law, that’s where the effort’s going to be."

[For the Record, March 11: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that all vehicles for the sole purpose of advertising were affected by the restrictions.]

-- Alene Tchekmedyian, Times Community News

Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek.


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