• Donna Desmond on billboard values and condemnation

    Donna Desmond is a business appraiser who had specialized in out of home advertising valuations since the early 1990s. She started Donna Desmond Associates, in Los Angeles in 1997.   She is a renowned expert in the economics and valuation of outdoor advertising assets.  Desmond has prepared hundreds of appraisals of billboard assets for use in transactions, breach of contract, eminent domain, shareholder disputes and landlord disputes. She has testified on billboard/digital sign issues in Federal District Court and Superior Courts in California, Nevada and Texas.  Desmond is a senior member of the American Society of Appraisers, Institute of Business Appraisers and International Right of Way Association.  Insider interviewed Desmond last week.

    Donna, how did you get involved with the out of home advertising industry?

    I started by specializing in valuing business damages in eminent domain in California, where goodwill loss is compensable in condemnation. Ron Beals, who was the VP Legal Counsel for Gannett at the time, reached out to me in the early 1990s to get me involved in valuing losses to billboard companies when signs were removed for public improvement projects. In California, both structure value and “goodwill” value are paid to billboard companies when signs cannot be relocated due to a taking. Since that time, I have had the pleasure of working with almost all of the billboard companies in California, as well as with companies focused on the Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Nevada markets.

    What kinds of services can you provide to out of home advertising companies?

    I provide a wide variety of expert witness and consulting services to both the industry and to public entities relative to signage. For out of home advertising companies, most of my work has centered on the valuation of billboards for compensation in eminent domain, fair market lease determinations for landlord disputes, valuation and testimony before tax assessment appeals boards, valuation in shareholder or contract disputes, and valuation for purchase price allocation.  I also provide consulting services to municipalities and transit authorities for fair market rent assessment for billboards on public right-of-way and in assisting cities in developing partnerships with out of home advertising companies in developing digital billboards on public property.

    What trends have you seen in billboard valuation in eminent domain cases in California?  What valuation premises do public entities accept?

    In California, the entire leasehold interest in a billboard is considered compensable in eminent domain, therefore, income approaches to value based on advertising income are used. This differs from most states, which do not provide compensation for “business” damages. In order to be eligible for compensation, the billboard company must prove that it made a reasonable effort to relocate to mitigate damages. However, in California, it is very difficult to find relocation sites due to local and state regulations. That being said, Outfront Media, Clear Channel Outdoor and Lamar have been very proactive in working with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) on obtaining relocation settlements in lieu of compensation that allow for relocation of signage to sites otherwise prohibited by State regulation.  This has saved the State a great deal of money on roadway projects that otherwise would have been paid out as compensation.

    LA Live

    What’s been your interesting billboard valuation case and why?

    Over the last several years, I have been involved in valued the signage at LA Live, which is a large commercial/hotel/theatre development in downtown Los Angeles immediately across the street from Staples Center. The development includes over 80,000 square feet of multiple types of signage, including full motion LEDs, wallscapes, freeway spectaculars and small format tenant directional. An issue even came up over the value of holographic signage. It has been a fascinating assignment.


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