Urine the Money With L.A. Sidewalk Ads

Now they're steam-cleaning corporate logos into the thick sidewalk filth.

The round, black scar of years-old chewing gum. Uneven cracks from an earthquake or a tree root. Fresh urine, likely human.

This is what you can’t avoid seeing if you walk the sidewalks of downtown Los Angeles. But now there’s a new addition getting etched into the city’s built-up filth: about 4 feet by 3 feet, with slick typography and marketing-room appeal, a patch of sidewalk on Figueroa Street now boasts a message brought to you by your friends at Audi.

The automaker is letting pedestrians know about its new “clean diesel” products with advertisements branded into the downtown dirt and grime.

It’s a clever way to get attention: pressure-wash through the scum of the sidewalk to erase an outlined message into the dirt about clean-burning cars. But, according to city officials, it’s also an explicitly out-of-place form of advertising in a city crowded with a forest of illegal billboards and illegal supergraphics. And this one uses the public right of way, installed without the city’s knowledge or approval...