Tacoma Urbanist

Jun. 17, 2011 at 12:01am

Digital Billboards Are Not Only Blightful, But Very, Very LOUD


Seattle has wisely banned digital billboard. However, Kent has installed one.

Tricia DeOme, chair of the Central Neighborhood Council. recorded this video of the billboard in Kent, WA.  The billboard is located next to roaring traffic.  Yet, the sound of the cooling fans in the digital billboard break over the traffic from a significant distance away.

Here it is:

Just think how loud and audible the digital billboard will be LOCATED IN QUIETER NEIGHBORHOODS IN TACOMA such as Union and 6th or 6th and Sprague where the one sided "settlement agreement" has targeted for forcing in digital billboards.

In addition, like most fans, the noise from the fan will likely significantly increase as the fans age and the bearings become worn out.

Consequences in Tacoma

Who would want to live by this nuisance noise?

What is the effect on property values?

What is the effect on people trying to live and sleep in the area?

What is the effect on businesses?

What research has the City of Tacoma done to determine the noise level of digital billboards?

Does anyone care about the negative impact it will have on the quality of life in Tacoma?

Nice work Tricia! Tacoma cannot thank you enough for your leadership and fact finding!


Here is the bizarre state of billboards next to City Hall which shows the level of blight tolerated and too many of us have become acclimated to.  

Let your Tacoma City Councilmembers know your opinion of digital billboards if you have one before it is too late.

comments [6]  |  posted under Tacoma


by Erik on 6/17/2011 @ 12:37am
Noise issues have been an issue in other cities too:

Neighbors hope to pull digital billboards

By William M. Welch, USA TODAY

LOS ANGELES Mark Legan has enjoyed his quiet, leafy neighborhood for 12 years, until someone threw a switch and filled his nights with bright, colorful lights.

"When the sun goes down, you can't ignore it," he says, gesturing from his living room toward the giant television billboard that recently went up a half block away on Santa Monica Boulevard.

"All this illumination comes into the house. My 7-year-old, when she sits at the dining room table, is forced to watch these ads. It's just not right."


"In the Comstock Hills neighborhood here, the debate is much simpler. A few houses down from Legan, Jean Bushnell says the sound of the fan that cools the sign bothers her. "It's a miserable thing for those of us who live near them," says Bushnell, who has lived in her home for 36 years."


by NineInchNachos on 6/17/2011 @ 12:41am
from the company that brought you this...

by NineInchNachos on 6/17/2011 @ 12:41am
and this...

by Erik on 6/17/2011 @ 11:46am
The loudness of a planned digital billboard at 6th and Union would certainly make being near the sidewalk here unpleasant if not intolerable.

The billboard hangs around 15 feet off of the sidewalk right next to the street.


The building below could be uninhabitable unless some elaborate soundproofing was performed.

Although there are cars on the intersection, they travel on average far slower than the ones in the video which is a thoroughfare.

by Nick on 6/17/2011 @ 4:24pm
I propose an interesting comparison: property tax revenue based on home valuations without any billboards (digital or otherwise) versus property tax revenue based on *depressed* home valuations with them. Crunch those numbers and maybe some of the remaining obtuse council members will start listening.

by Erik on 6/19/2011 @ 12:20am
Check out the similarities Tacoma has with San Antonio in the battle against the threat of digital billboards:

A Summary of What's Wrong with the San Antonio Digital Billboard Ordinance:

Three Main Reasons: UGLY, UGLY, and UGLY - San Antonio is littered with ugly billboards. Far more than other, major Texan cities. Digital billboards will have an even greater 'UGLY' impact

Lousy Representation - Again, our city council appears content to sacrifice public good to satisfy private interests and relegate San Antonio into a second tier status among Texan cities. REMEMBER THIS WHEN YOU GO


Obviously Unsafe - It's simply a matter of common sense that digital billboards with changing messages will be more distracting and hence less safe

There has been no, independent, national study to show digital billboards pose the same or less risk for highway safety

The San Antonio ordinance requires city staff to provide a "report" to city council about safety, but we can be confident that this "report" will be superficial and unscientific

Lousy Deal for Citizens - Clear Channel, and the other companies, will get a 'golden handshake' of 300% to 3800% increases in gross revenues:
These high increases in revenues mean comparable high increases in visual impact on the community

Returns on investment (ROIs) will be vastly greater than economically necessary to induce trades

While there's nothing wrong with private profit, windfall profit at the public expense (aka 'corporate enrichment') is unacceptable

The City of San Antonio has conducted no credible, independent study of billboard economics to support smart negotiations

Other cities (such as Houston) are achieving better rates of billboard elimination with 'no new billboard' strategies

Trashy/Indecent Content - Companies and advertisers will have more freedom to flash short duration advertisements with trashy or indecent pictures and messages, than they have with old vinyl signs that are up for weeks or months

Scenic Protections Gutted - Protection from new billboard construction on scenic and urban corridors (I-10, 1604, 281, etc.) was lifted:
Given traffic and income patterns, billboard companies will be targeted these corridors for maximum coverage

Lousy Management Record of City Staff - City staff is not resourced or motivated to manage an exchange program in favor of citizen interests in the short or long run

Financial Liability - Taxpayers will have much greater financial risk for billboard removal for roadway modifications

Bad for Business - Sure. Billboards are great for the billboard industry (Clear Channel), but degrade San Antonio's uniqueness, which is a big attraction for tourism. Also they project a low-tech appearance and lower our standing for attracting high tech companies. Light pollution is the major concern for the Army in the Camp Bullis area.

Other Quality of Life Problems - Besides trashing urban aesthetics, digital billboards will induce noise pollution, light pollution*, etc.



There are so many other cities around the country with such similar fights. The sooner Tacoma borrows what they can from their playbooks, the better.