Laurelhurst Community Club
Councilmember Jan Drago, Chair
Finance, Budget and Economic Development Committee
Seattle City Council
11th Floor, Municipal Building
600 Fourth Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98104-1876
RE: Council Bill 113692 relating to Video Signs
Dear Councilmember Drago and Other Councilmembers:
The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees is opposed to Council Bill 113692, a measure that would repeal the current moratorium on video signs. We have concerns about the impact of allowing video signs on traffic safety. We also believe these signs are a visual assault on our urban environment and should not be allowed or that more stringent regulations should be required. After a review of the proposal, DCLU's Director's Report and Recommendation and materials prepared by council central staff, questions remain. Before you move forward on this proposal, we ask that you address the following concerns:
DCLU, council central staff and other staff have refused to provide information requested to enable citizens to review the traffic safety and other impacts of the proposal. DCLU's Director's Report and Recommendation and the excellent materials prepared by Mary Denzel of council central staff are based in large part upon a report commissioned by DCLU that was prepared by the Gerald Wachtel/Veridian Group. We wanted to study this report because of our concern about traffic safety and other issues. DCLU never responded to our request for the report and council central staff refused to provide it because it was a "draft" report. The city clerk's office subsequently told us that disclosure of the report was subject to the "deliberative process exemption" to the public disclosure law.
We also requested copies of written statements submitted at the public hearing on this measure and received no response. We do not understand why the City has placed these obstacles in front of citizen groups concerned about traffic safety and other impacts of this proposal. We also do not understand why the consultant's report was not available (and still is not for that matter) prior to the June 13th public hearing.
Is there a traffic safety hazard? We think there is. The proposal says that the minimum duration of the video message is two seconds and the maximum is ten seconds. According to council central staff, this means more than 20% of a driver's attention might be drawn to the sign and that the message may not be completed before the driver passed the sign and that this could cause the driver to modify his or her driving to read the message. Without further explanation and an opportunity to review the consultant's report, this is a major concern. Just think of all of the near accidents due to cell phones. Video signage is an even bigger distraction.
Why pollute our urban environment with video signs? Seattle is not Las Vegas and we do not want our commercial districts to resemble "red light" districts. Yes, the proposal would not allow video signs in residential areas and some protections are provided in that regard. But, these types of signs are ugly and would be able to be located 35 feet apart. Can you imagine the Ave or Lake City with video signage on both sides of the street every 35 feet? Just drive out to the University District to a used record store called Second Time Around, located at 4209 University Way NE and see that video sign. The sign is not related to the business and is a major distraction to drivers in an area where there are many pedestrians some that jaywalk. The proposal does not address the visual blight that would be created. Perhaps the consultant's report addresses this issue, but as we mentioned earlier the City has refused to provide that report, as well as DCLU's review of other jurisdiction's regulations of such display methods.
What are the noise impacts of the proposal? As noted in the council central staff report, the moratorium regulated the noise on video signs to a message audible only within ten feet. We find no noise references in the proposal. The council central staff report listed three options for you to consider: add back the noise component, leave noise regulation out of the proposal or prohibit audio in combination with signs. We strongly urge that you prohibit an audio component with video signage. We have questions about the noise aspect of this measure. If there is no reference to the noise component, does that mean that the noise ordinance would apply? If so, this is disturbing as that ordinance has no teeth and our community council continually receives noise complaints from neighbors with no recourse available.
Grandfathering existing signs: We believe the current proposal should address existing signs that do not meet the proposed standards. If you choose to enact this measure, existing signs should be required to comply.
Nighttime Display: We believe that nighttime display of video signs should be limited. We do not think that the size and location criteria limit the distraction created by these signs. If the sign is the same brightness day and night, then the intensity at night could be an additional hazard, not to mention dominating the field of view. The brightness of the signs should be restricted significantly at night.
We hope you will consider the concerns of the Laurelhurst Community Club in deciding how to proceed on this measure.
3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE
Seattle, Washington 98105
525-5135 / fax 525-9631
ENC: LCC proposed changes to NMF Committee's draft policy and Q&A re the proposal