School and Commerce Meet at Temescal, Bowdoin

Two students pass a controversial new bus bench/advertising kiosk outside Palisades Charter High School on Temescal Canyon Road.
Two students pass a controversial new bus bench/advertising kiosk outside Palisades Charter High School on Temescal Canyon Road.
Photo by Max Taves

Metro riders who wait outside Palisades Charter High School at Temescal Canyon Road and Bowdoin Street got an unexpected gift last week: a shelter with a three-person bench. But it’s the shelter’s new neighbor that has some locals fuming: a self-standing, 10-ft.-tall, two-faced billboard. ‘I’m not upset. I’m outraged!’ Mary RedClay, a longtime teacher and board member at Palisades High, says of the new billboard. ‘We need a place where teenagers are protected from people trying to put their hands in kids’ pockets.’ RedClay isn’t alone, says PaliHi Executive Director Amy Held. ‘There are several stakeholders who are very concerned about it,’ Held said. ‘They feel that there should be one kind of safe zone from commercialism.’ Held says that the new billboard and bench will muddy the site the 2,700-student school’s future aquatics center. Not so fast, says Francois Nion, co-managing director of CBS/Decaux, which owns and manages the shelter and ad kiosk. ‘I think the students requested it,’ said Nion, referring to the bus shelter, not the ads. Besides, Nion argues, kids wear ads on their t-shirts to school. And buses that pass the school are covered with ads. Still, he says, the company is ‘mindful’ about what ads it will place in front of the school. ‘If people complain and find an ad objectionable, we can take it down and replace it with another.’ Although the bench was installed last week, city approval began several years ago when CBS/Decaux won a lucrative bid to build ad kiosks in exchange for installing and maintaining bus shelters. CBS/Decaux had planned to install more than two dozen other ad kiosks in Pacific Palisades until last August. That was when the local beautification group PRIDE successfully lobbied City Councilman Bill Rosendahl to reject the companies’ plans. But the Temescal-Bowdoin bench was not part of that agreement. Rosendahl Deputy Andrea Epstein said that approval for that bench was made by then-Councilwoman Cindy Miscicowski, not Rosendahl. Currently, the kiosk is running public service announcements from the LAPD and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But that will change within one month when CBS/Decaux begins selling ads there, says Nion. ‘Most of the time [there] will be movie ads, and [ads] for car dealers and telephone and fashion [companies],’ he says. But to its opponents, any ads adjacent to the school are unacceptable. And they want them removed from the busy corner. ‘It’s visual blight,’ says Peter Scolney, who as PRIDE president fought against the benches. ‘And it’s assaultive advertising.’ Rick Mills, chair of the Palisades Design Review Board, which oversees commercial development, wants Rosendahl to have the kiosk removed. ‘He would get a lot of community points if he could work out a place for that [kiosk] to get relocated,’ Mills says. ‘Everything is possible,’ Nion says. ‘I cannot decide to [remove] it myself. That has to come through the city. And we would have to move it somewhere else. But once in a while we relocate for various reasons.’ If the ads are removed, CBS/Decaux would also remove the bench and shelter. An adjacent three-person bus bench at the same stop would not be moved. —– To contact Staff Writer Max Taves, e-mail reporter@palipost.com or call (310) 454-1321 ext. 28.