DC Says Advertisers Endanger Public Safety

     WASHINGTON (CN) — The District of Columbia on Wednesday took 10 companies to court for ignoring its warnings about “massive” and dangerous LED signs that could fall and crush pedestrians to death.
     The District says it issued nine companies permits to install interior brackets in their properties, and the companies used the permits to put up exterior brackets and install huge electronic signs.
     “Thousands of people pass underneath or alongside defendants’ LED signs – which are not permitted or inspected by DCRA [the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs] – causing a significant risk of death or injury if one of these massive signs were to fall on a passerby,” the city says in Superior Court.
     Using a promotional brochure from DC area-based media company Digi Media Communications as a treasure map, the city found 20 places around the city where the company said it would build large electronic advertising signs.
     All of the properties listed in the complaint appeared on Digi Media’s brochure, though the District also identifies others where it says Digi Media plans to build.
     “These LED signs tower over and above pedestrians, causing substantial and significant risk to public safety,” the complaint states. “This court must step in and order defendants to stop their illegal conduct and allow the District to fulfill its responsibility to protect the public safety and welfare.”
     In one example, Jemal’s Darth Vader used its permit for interior brackets on a building on NW Massachusetts Avenue to hire Digi Digital Media to put the brackets outside. The District issued a notice to revoke the permit, but says Jemal’s installed large LED signs outside anyway.
     A co-founder of Digi Media told an inspector for the District that Digi would not stop the installments because it had a “work schedule” under contracts with building owners, the District says.
     The 36-page complaint describes similar offenses from all of the defendants, though some signs have been taken down and others have not yet been put up.
     But in all cases, the District says, the companies abused their permits to build or plan to erect signs that pose a “substantial and significant risk to public safety.”
     Digi Media and Jemal’s Darth Vader appealed and last week Superior Court Judge Paul B. Handy stayed enforcement of the notices of revocation, according to the complaint.
     But the District says Handy was silent on the issue of the LED signs and said the stay did not affect the stop work orders.
     Digi Media attorney Ed Donohue, with Donohue & Stearns in Alexandria, Va., declined comment, but a Digi Media spokesperson insisted the company complied with District regulations.
     “Digi cooperated fully with permitting regulations, and all construction work was fully permitted with DCRA,” the spokesperson said by email. “Digi Media cannot discuss specifics during this process on the permits under appeal.”
     The District’s attorney, Zachary Shapiro, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday afternoon. Nor did the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
     Nor did these defendants respond to requests for comment: Jemal’s Darth Vader, Douglas Development Corp., Thomas Circle CF LLC, UBS Real Estate Investments Inc., NH Street Partners Holdings LLC, 1350 Connecticut Avenue Limited Partnership, 2100 M Street LP and CLPF – CC Pavilion.
     Defendants Western Washington DC Corporate Center LLC could not be reached for comment.
     The District’s Attorney General said in a statement: “The District has enacted building and sign regulations for reasons that include protecting the safety of our residents and preserving the aesthetic nature of our city. The Office of the Attorney General believes Digi Media has unlawfully installed these signs, and we are taking action to enforce the law.”

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