HALL, Senior Circuit Judge:
This appeal is the first of three unrelated but similar cases requiring us to decide whether and to what extent an outdoor advertising company has standing to challenge the constitutionality of a municipal sign ordinance. In this opinion, we will outline the general legal principles applicable to all three cases and decide the appeal in the challenge to the San Diego ordinance.
Get Outdoors II is an outdoor advertising company attempting to build and operate signs in the City of San Diego ("the City"). On June 2, 2003, Get Outdoors II filed twenty-four applications for billboard permits with the City, through its Development Services Department. Get Outdoors II alleges that it had already signed leases with various real property owners to post signs on their parcels.
When the company's representative dropped off the applications, a city official informed him that the City's sign ordinance prohibited new billboards but agreed to review the applications. The City then performed a complete review of the applications and notified Get Outdoors II the next day that it could not grant permits for any of the signs under San Diego Municipal Code ("SDMC") § 142.1210, which prohibits new signs bearing "off-premises" messages.
Get Outdoors II filed this lawsuit on July 21, 2003. Its 33-page, 105-paragraph second amended complaint raises fourteen claims for relief based on the First and Fourteenth Amendments. It argues that the City's billboard regulations are unconstitutionally overbroad under the First and Fourteenth Amendments because they favor commercial over non-commercial speech and some types of noncommercial speech over others, and that its own rights were violated by the ban on off-site signs, as well as certain size and height restrictions. It also argued that the permitting process was an invalid prior restraint because it lacked a deadline provision and because it gave city officials unbridled discretion to grant or deny permits. Get Outdoors II requested injunctive relief, damages, and attorney fees. Notably, it requested that the court invalidate the entire sign ordinance.
The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, which were argued in November 2004. By that time, the City had enacted several legislative amendments, including a "message substitution" clause, a 45-day deadline for decisions on all permit applications, and a judicial review provision. See SDMC §§ 142.1210(a)(10)(D); 129.0808; 129.0809. The district court granted summary judgment to the City on July 13, 2005. See Get Outdoors II v. City of San Diego, 381 F.Supp.2d 1250 (S.D.Cal.2005).
The district court held that Get Outdoors II lacked standing to bring its overbreadth claim because it was challenging provisions of the ordinance other than the provision that applied to it, found the billboard ban constitutional, rejected the challenge to the permit procedure as moot, and rejected the unbridled discretion claim on the merits. The court also held that the challenged provisions were severable because the content-neutral size and height restrictions may function independently from the provisions regulating sign copy and location. It granted summary judgment to the City.
Get Outdoors II filed its timely appeal on August 17, 2005. We review the district court's dismissal for lack of standing, dismissal for mootness, and grant of summary judgment de novo. See Ruiz v. City of Santa Maria, 160 F.3d 543, 548 (9th Cir.1998); Desert Outdoor Advertising, Inc. v. City of Moreno Valley, 103 F.3d 814, 818 (9th Cir.1996). We may affirm on any ground supported by the record. Lambert v. Blodgett, 393 F.3d 943, 965 (9th Cir.2004). We hold that the City's billboard size and height restrictions do not violate the First Amendment, that Get Outdoors II's permit applications violated these restrictions, and that it therefore lacks standing to challenge the ban on off-premises messages. Because we also hold that the challenge to the permit process fails, we affirm.
We turn first to the question of whether Get Outdoors II has standing to challenge the entire sign ordinance on the basis of the injuries it has alleged here. Because Get Outdoors II has made what it calls an overbreadth claim, it argues that it falls into a special exceptional category of standing doctrine. Throughout its briefs, Get Outdoors II uses "overbreadth" to describe
A. Lujan and Overbreadth Standing
The "irreducible minimum" of standing under Article III of the Constitution is 1) an injury in fact which is "actual, concrete, and particularized"; 2) a causal connection between that injury and the defendant's conduct; and 3) a likelihood that the injury can be redressed by a favorable decision of the court. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992). The federal courts have supplemented this requirement of "constitutional standing" with the doctrine of "prudential standing," which requires us to ask whether the plaintiff's claim is sufficiently individualized to ensure effective judicial review. See Elk Grove Unified School Dist. v. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1, 11, 124 S.Ct. 2301, 159 L.Ed.2d 98 (2004); Sec'y of State v. Joseph H. Munson Co., 467 U.S. 947, 956, 104 S.Ct. 2839, 81 L.Ed.2d 786 (1984); Schlesinger v. Reservists Committee to Stop the War, 418 U.S. 208, 94 S.Ct. 2925, 41 L.Ed.2d 706 (1974). We employ the prudential standing doctrine to avoid usurping the legislature's role as the policymaking body in our separation of powers. See Prime Media v. City of Brentwood, 485 F.3d 343, 353 (6th Cir.2007) (hereinafter "Prime Media II").
When a plaintiff states an overbreadth claim under the First Amendment, however, we suspend the prudential standing doctrine because of the special nature of the risk to expressive rights. See Broadrick v. Oklahoma, 413 U.S. 601, 612, 93 S.Ct. 2908, 37 L.Ed.2d 830 (1973); Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479, 486, 85 S.Ct. 1116, 14 L.Ed.2d 22 (1965). While the prudential standing doctrine typically prevents us from hearing lawsuits on the basis of injuries to non-parties, the overbreadth doctrine operates as a narrow exception permitting the lawsuit to proceed on the basis of "a judicial prediction or assumption that the statute's very existence may cause others not before the court to refrain from constitutionally protected speech or expression." Broadrick, 413 U.S. at 612, 93 S.Ct. 2908. In other words, a plaintiff challenging a law as overbroad argues that the law is constitutionally valid as applied to him, but unconstitutional as to others. See, e.g., Virginia v. Am. Booksellers Ass'n, Inc., 484 U.S. 383, 108 S.Ct. 636, 98 L.Ed.2d 782 (1988); New York v. Ferber, 458 U.S. 747, 102 S.Ct. 3348, 73 L.Ed.2d 1113 (1982).
Even when raising an overbreadth claim, however, we ask whether the plaintiff has suffered an injury in fact and can satisfactorily frame the issues on behalf of these non-parties. See Munson, 467 U.S. at 958, 104 S.Ct. 2839; Gospel Missions of Am. v. City of Los Angeles, 328 F.3d 548, 554 (9th Cir.2003). Without this bare minimum of standing, the overbreadth exception would nullify the notion of standing generally in First Amendment litigation. We therefore agree with a string of recent decisions in other circuits holding that the three Lujan elements still apply in the overbreadth context. See CAMP Legal Defense Fund, Inc. v. City of Atlanta, 451 F.3d 1257, 1269-72 (11th Cir. 2006); accord Prime Media II, 485 F.3d at 349-50; KH Outdoor, L.L.C. v. Clay County, 482 F.3d 1299, 1305 (11th Cir.2007); Advantage Media, L.L.C. v. City of Eden
In this case, Get Outdoors II challenges the off-site ban, as well as the rest of the sign code, on the basis of the harm it causes to other potential speakers, specifically noncommercial speakers. Get Outdoors II must still show, however, that it meets the Lujan requirements for each of the provisions it wishes to challenge as overbroad.
B. Get Outdoors II's Standing
Having established that Get Outdoors II must meet all three Lujan requirements for any claim it wishes to make, we turn to deciding where and to what extent Get Outdoors II has standing. The injuries alleged in this case are as follows: (1) the denial of the permits; (2) being subjected to an unconstitutional content-based ban, and (3) being subjected to an unconstitutional prior restraint. Therefore, we must determine which provisions caused these injuries and whether these injuries are redressable by a favorable decision from this court.
The permits were denied explicitly under the City's ban on off-site signs. This was the provision cited in person, in the informal telephone call, and the formal letter. The City has also demonstrated in its affidavits that it would have independently denied the permits under its size and height restrictions. Because we have found causation where the plaintiff has shown a provision would certainly be used against it, see Klein v. San Diego County, 463 F.3d 1029, 1033 & n. 3 (9th Cir.2006), we hold for our purposes here that the size and height restrictions constitute a secondary cause of the denial of the permits. Cf. North Avenue Novelties, Inc. v. City of Chicago, 88 F.3d 441, 443-44 (7th Cir.1996) (reading complaint broadly to incorporate a challenge to provision that did not directly cause, but otherwise would have caused, the plaintiff's permits to be denied). Get Outdoors II would have us take an even broader view of its case, however. It argues that its injuries should be attributed to the entire sign code and that it has standing, accordingly, to challenge these other provisions.
Get Outdoors II has standing to challenge only those provisions that applied to it. In 4805 Convoy v. City of San Diego, 183 F.3d 1108 (9th Cir.1999), for example, the City revoked a nude dancing license from the plaintiff, who proceeded to challenge the procedures for granting, as well as revoking, the licenses. We held that the plaintiff had standing to challenge only the revocation procedures. Id. at 1111. Get Outdoors II cannot leverage its injuries under certain, specific provisions to state an injury under the sign ordinance generally. See also Covenant Media of South Carolina, LLC v. City of North Charleston, 493 F.3d 421, 429 (4th Cir. 2007) (holding that billboard company's standing to challenge the permit procedure "does not provide it with a passport to explore the constitutionality of every provision of the Sign Regulation").
Having determined the nature of the alleged injuries and their specific
The Seventh Circuit has since limited Harp in a case where the court determined that the plaintiff was implicitly challenging these secondary restrictions as well. See North Avenue, 88 F.3d at 443-44. Similarly, Get Outdoors II urges us to find that its claims are redressable because it has also explicitly challenged the size and height restrictions. For this reason, its appeal here is unlike Harp, and unlike two otherwise similar cases in other circuits where the billboard company lacked standing due to a violation of a provision not challenged in the case at bar. See KH Outdoor, 482 F.3d at 1303-04; Advantage Media, 456 F.3d at 801.
We find that Get Outdoors II's injuries under the substantive provisions of the City's sign regulations would be redressed by a decision from this court that invalidated both the size and height restrictions as well as the off-site ban. We note, however, that because standing is addressed on a claim by claim basis, an unfavorable decision on the merits of one claim may well defeat standing on another claim if it defeats the plaintiff's ability to seek redress. Cf. Prime Media, Inc. v. City of Brentwood, 398 F.3d 814, 821 (6th Cir.2005) (hereinafter "Prime Media I") (denying one claim on the merits and remanding to the district court to make a new determination of standing on the other claims).
III. The Size and Height Restrictions
Size and height restrictions on billboards are evaluated as content-neutral time, place and manner regulations.
The Supreme Court has recognized that a city's interests in traffic safety and aesthetics are sufficient government interests for the purposes of this analysis.
To further these interests, the City has calibrated its size and height restrictions for "ground signs," which include billboards, to the width of the adjacent public rights-of-way and the speed limit. See Table 142-12H, SDMC § 142.1240. Display square footage, for example, varies from 32 square feet for the narrowest rights-of-way with the lowest speed limits, to 300 square feet for freeway-oriented signs. See Table 142-12H, § 142.1240. We find that these size and height restrictions are not substantially broader than necessary to protect the city's interests in traffic safety and aesthetics, and directly advance the city's interests. See Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U.S. at 808 & n. 27, 104 S.Ct. 2118; see also Prime Media I, 398 F.3d at 822 (declining to require government to justify how it calculated size and height restrictions). Further, because these restrictions leave open alternative channels of communication — indeed they stop short of banning all billboards — we hold that they do not foreclose any alternative avenues of communication. See Metromedia, 453 U.S. at 501, 101 S.Ct. 2882.
We therefore uphold San Diego's size and height restrictions on billboards as valid, content-neutral, time, place and manner restrictions.
IV. The Off-Site Sign Ban
We determined in Part II, supra, that our ability to grant relief in this case hinged on the possibility that we would invalidate both the off-site sign ban and the size and height restrictions. We have now decided this latter set of restrictions is constitutional, and validly prohibits the construction of the proposed billboards. Therefore, even a decision enjoining the off-site ban would not redress the injury Get Outdoors II suffered due to the denial of its permits. See Covenant Media, 493 F.3d at 429-31; Prime Media, 485 F.3d at 349-50; KH Outdoor, 482 F.3d at 1305; Advantage Media, 456 F.3d at 799; Harp, 9 F.3d at 1292. Nor would nominal damages be appropriate under these circumstances. See County of Riverside, 337 F.3d at 1115.
Accordingly, we do not reach Get Outdoors II's claim regarding the off-site ban.
V. Prior Restraint
A person subject to a licensing ordinance may make a facial, First Amendment attack on that ordinance without ever applying for a permit because the threat of the prior restraint itself constitutes an actual injury. See City of Lakewood v. Plain Dealer Publishing Co., 486 U.S. 750, 759, 108 S.Ct. 2138, 100 L.Ed.2d 771 (1988). The Supreme Court has espoused two definitions of a prior restraint: an ordinance that vests unbridled discretion in the licensor, see id.; Forsyth County v. Nationalist Movement, 505 U.S. 123, 112 S.Ct. 2395, 120 L.Ed.2d 101 (1992), or an ordinance that does not impose adequate time limits on the relevant public officials, see FW/PBS, Inc. v. City of Dallas, 493 U.S. 215, 110 S.Ct. 596, 107 L.Ed.2d 603 (1990). Get Outdoors II alleges that the sign ordinance in this case is invalid for both reasons, but we must first evaluate its standing to bring this part of its challenge.
As we previously discussed, no claim is exempt from Article III standing
Get Outdoors II challenges the discretionary provisions contained in the City's sign ordinance and the absence of a time-limit provision. However, Get Outdoors II's applications to erect billboard structures were denied on grounds that are constitutionally valid, and neither its filings nor its actions in this case have evinced any intent to file permit applications that comply with these requirements. Thus, Get Outdoors II cannot show that it would ever be genuinely threatened by an unconstitutional prior restraint in this case. In other words, Get Outdoors II is not a plaintiff who "might have had a license for the asking." No change in the permit procedure would result in the approval of the permits it requests. See KH Outdoor, 482 F.3d at 1304-05 (dismissing all claims for lack of redressability). Further, because its permits were independently invalid, we cannot say there it suffered any injury compensable by even nominal damages. See County of Riverside, 337 F.3d at 1115. We therefore hold that Get Outdoors II lacks standing to challenge the permitting process.
In summary, we have found that Get Outdoors II's claims fail on the basis of standing, mootness and the merits. Accordingly, the district court's order granting summary judgment is
The City exempts non-conforming signs that were lawfully erected before July 19, 1983. See SDMC § 127.0303.