Laurelhurst Community Club
Serving 2800 Households in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

July 30, 2001

Councilmember Jan Drago, Chair
Finance, Budget and Economic Development Committee
Seattle City Council
11th Floor, Municipal Building
600 Fourth Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98104-1876
Fax 684-8587

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 traffic safety and the visual impact of video signs on our urban environment. We urge you to enact a permanent ban on video or moving signs. We endorse the attached comments of the Seattle Community Council Federation and offer the following additional comments:

  1. The aesthetic impacts of video or moving signs must be examined. Neither the draft nor final consultant's report examines this issue. Video or moving signs are inconsistent with the purpose of the Sign Code "to encourage the use of signs that enhance the visual environment." Video signs characterized by real-time, full-motion imagery of television quality" located every 35 feet would convert quiet business areas into "red light districts."

  2. DCLU has been unable to cite any jurisdiction in Washington state that has authorized video or moving signs. In its Director's Report, DCLU states that it has reviewed other jurisdiction's regulations of these types of display methods. None of those cities (Gig Harbor, Summer and Stanwood) allow video signs. Even state law prohibits signs that "contain, include or are illuminated by any flashing, intermittent or moving light or lights" except those that provide information such as date and weather. The original moratorium on video signs cited Portland as authorizing such signs. Portland has since enacted a measure prohibiting signs with changing images.

  3. The ONLY support for this proposal comes from AK Media, a Member of the Ackerley Media Group. The impacts on the aesthetics of our environment and traffic safety far outweigh the desire of the sign industry to promote their business.

  4. The draft consultant's report lists nine human factors affecting traffic safety associated with this signage. The general conclusion is that the risk is acceptable because the driver's attention would only be diverted by about 20%. We find this unacceptable. There are many pedestrians in most commercial business districts. These neighbors should not be put at risk. Another purpose of the Sign Code is "to protect the public interest and safety." This proposal is contrary to that purpose.

  5. Should you move forward with this proposal, nighttime illumination should be prohibited. The moratorium allowed DCLU to grant a special exception for this type of signage, but restricted hours of operation to daylight except for special events where signs could be turned on before and after the event. The draft consultant's report discussed two predominant human factors relating to traffic safety--distraction of the driver's attention away from the driving task and glare caused by bright lights in the visual field that may make darker objects more difficult, if not impossible to see. Regarding the latter, the consultant said that the glare will render a driver unable to see darker objects, including potential hazards such as pedestrians, animals, potholes, disabled vehicles, etc. that may be in or crossing the driver's path.

  6. Should you move forward with this proposal, we urge you to prohibit an audio component to video or moving signs. We want our commercial business districts to be welcoming and pedestrian-friendly. Customers should not be forced to endure commercial messages emanating from video or moving signs.

We urge you to review both the draft and final versions of the consultant's report on the video sign issue. We hope you will consider the issues we have raised and enact a permanent ban on video and moving signs.

Sincerely,


Jeannie Hale
3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE
Seattle, Washington 98105
525-5135 / fax 525-9631
jeannieh@serv.net

ENC: Seattle Community Council Federation letter of July 26, 2001


Seattle Community Council Federation
2511 West Montlake Place East
Seattle, WA 98112

July 26, 2001

Councilmember Jan Drago, Chair
Finance, Budget and Economic Development Committee
Seattle City Council
11th Floor, Municipal Building
600 Fourth Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98104-1876
Fax 684-8587

RE: Council Bill 113692 relating to Video Signs

Dear Councilmember Drago and Other Councilmembers:

The Seattle Community Council Federation opposes Council Bill 113692, a measure that would repeal the current moratorium on video signs. We believe that any type of video sign of any size or shape characterized by real-time, full-motion imagery of television quality should be prohibited in the City of Seattle. This type of signage constitutes a visual assault on our environment and a serious traffic safety hazard.

The moratorium is scheduled to expire on October 1, 2001. We urge you to enact a permanent ban on this type of signage because it is inconsistent with the intent of the Sign Code "to encourage the use of signs than enhance the visual environment of the city" and "to protect the public interest and safety." We believe that alternative methods of conveying messages on signs other than video signage would not impinge on any First Amendment rights.

The Department of Design, Construction and Land Use has been unable to point us to any other Washington city that authorizes this type of signage. The one most visible sign on I-5 is located on Tribal land and is not subject to local zoning laws. Even state law prohibits signs that "contain, include, or are illuminated by any flashing, intermittent, or moving light or lights" except those giving public service information such as time, date, temperature, weather or similar information.

At the time the moratorium was enacted, the City decided to study the circumstances, if any, under which video signs would be consistent with the Sign Code. The moratorium ordinance notes that the City of Portland had authorized such signs. Portland has since enacted a measure prohibiting signs with changing sign images. After reviewing the consultant's report and reports prepared by DCLU and council central staff, we can think of no circumstances where this type of signage should be allowed. The ONLY group advocating such signage is AK Media, a Member of the Ackerley Media Group. Video signage could be a big business in Seattle. But, do we want this kind of business to prosper at the expense of its impact on the aesthetics of our environment and traffic safety? We do not want the peaceful streets of Seattle to be tarnished by this visual blight, especially if it puts our citizens at risk.

DCLU has interpreted its directive to study this issue as developing some kind of proposal to allow this type of signage with certain restrictions regarding location, size and other issues. We believe DCLU has misinterpreted its mission. What DCLU should have done is to make recommendations as to whether this is the right thing to do for our City. For whatever reason, DCLU instead chose to devise an elaborate scheme to allow these visually offensive signs that have been documented to impact traffic safety.

The current proposal allows video signs to be 35 feet apart. This could turn many of our neighborhood business districts into "red light" zones. The moratorium allowed DCLU to grant a special exception for this signage with hours of operation restricted to daylight except for special events where the signs could be left on before and after the event. The nighttime illumination issue is not addressed in the current proposal, although we understand that amendments are under consideration. The moratorium also prohibited audio speakers that could be heard no greater than necessary to hear the message from ten feet and then only allowed when the sign is turned on. If you move forward with this proposal, there should be no nighttime illumination and no audio component whatsoever.

We urge you to reject Council Bill 113692 and prohibit outright all video signage. We hope you will consider the concerns of the Seattle Community Council Federation.

Sincerely,

Stephen Lundgren
President

cc: Other City Councilmembers, Mayor Paul Schell


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