Tacoma Urbanist

Aug. 10, 2011 at 12:08am

The Future of Tacoma's Fight Against Threats of Digital Billboard Blight

Could the quality of life interests in Tacoma prevail against short term profits for a few?  Apparently so...for tonight at least.  Yesterday, the Tacoma City Council voted 7 to 1 to ban digital billboards delivering a clear victory for Tacomans and for the liveability of the city. Now is the time to celebrate for Tacomans.

Here is a good video of the issue showing someone already detrimentally effected by a digital billboard by King 5 News as well as coverage on the council vote tonight.

TACOMA – Tacoma’s City Council voted Tuesday night to ban digital billboards in the city.

The move essentially voids a settlement agreement with Clear Channel Outdoor, which had sued the city 14 years ago over an ordinance to reduce billboards in the city. The company had agreed to take down dozens of traditional billboards, in exchange for the right to put up to 10 electronic billboards across the city.

The Council agreed to the terms of the deal earlier this year. But it was immediately met with criticism from people who were concerned about flashing lights outside their homes, including Neil Beckman.

“I don’t like the looks of it right now,” said Beckman, who lives across the street from an existing billboard which looks down on his home. Clear Channel intended to turn it into an electronic sign.

See the full story here.


It would be nice to think that the battle against the threat of digital billboards blighting Tacoma is over.  However, Tacoma must now expect that the will be tested over the next few years in the court system. Tacomans need to closely watch the litigation to make sure the city does not threaten to capitulate again behind closed doors. 

Also, Mayor Strickland's statement today makes it sound as if she is still seeking to push digital billboards into the City of Tacoma at a later date (via the Tribune) if she had the opportunity:

“At some point in the future, in the near future, we’re going to have a serious conversation about digital and talk about where digital can fit into our landscape, because I do think it’s possible,” Mayor Marilyn Strickland said.


Hasn't the issue already been debated enough already?

It sure would be nice for hundreds of citizens, civic groups and neighborhood councils to start focusing on other pressing issues in Tacoma such improving their neighborhoods, redeveloping the City of Tacoma and just enjoying the city.

The fight against the threat of digital billboards being imposed in the city has expended a great deal of City of Tacoma and citizen resources.  It is not appropriate to try to prolong this bitter fight especially when Tacoma needs to have a united front against any threat of litigation. 

How about if we have this "conversation" about digital billboards again in 10 years but no sooner?

Now that non-complying billboard are required to be removed in the City of Tacoma, Tacoma needs to figure out the best methodology for doing so. (BTW, removing 190 billboards and redeveloping many of the building lots they are sitting on could create a lot of short term jobs).

Here are two methods in which billboards can be removed:

comments [23]  |  posted under tacoma


by Erik on 8/10/2011 @ 12:59am
The public testimony and comments and votes by the Tacoma City Council can be viewed and listed to here:


One interesting thing I notice tonight is that the proponents of digital billboards cannot even get themselves to say the words.

by Erik on 8/10/2011 @ 1:00am
Bonus billboard removal videos:



by Erik on 8/10/2011 @ 1:11am

Sofia orders 90 dangerous billboards removed

About 90 dangerous billboards at road intersections in Sofia, endangering traffic safety, are to be removed, daily Trud said.

The billboards earmarked for removal were identified during a large-scale inspection by municipal officials, which in turn was ordered after a vehicle accident in June in which several people, including a young child, were seriously injured when their car collided with a billboard.
This billboard had been implanted several metres deeper than regulations allowed.

Eight billboards will be removed from the intersection of Petko Todorov and Bulgaria boulevards, because the strong light emitted by the billboards obscured the vision of motorists, the report said.

Owners will have 14 days to comply with the order to remove the billboards.



by Jesse on 8/10/2011 @ 8:28am
If they don't take out the remaining billboards by said date, than the city should start the process and bill them.

As long as the billboards are up, Clear Channel will drag this out forever as it's a good ROI with the lawyers. The moment the city starts taking them down, they'll want a resolution quick.

by NineInchNachos on 8/10/2011 @ 8:50am
Fredo, can you get an estimate from Wm. Dickson ?

by fredo on 8/10/2011 @ 9:17am
Nachos wrote@ can you get an estimate from Wm. Dickson?

Sure, but why bother?

The city council doesn't care how much anything costs.

$800,000 baseball berm=approved
$1,500,000 new furniture=approved
$175,000 gift acceptance fee=approved
$50,000 study to learn why poor kids become gangbangers=approved
$50,000 to find out why improperly administered amber alerts don't work=approved
$250,000 golden handshake for former city manager=approved
$700,000 parking lot for private business=approved
$90,000 parking lot upgrade fee=approved
$50,000 social media campaign subject parking meters=approved
$2,000,000 for grifters running Prium Development LLC=approved

money available for potholes, not approved: that will require a new tax.

by Erik on 8/10/2011 @ 9:45am
Also worth watching is Lauren Walker's inspiring message to Clear Channel during the council discussions on the issue:


She has valor!

by fredo on 8/10/2011 @ 9:55am
Erik, clearly Mayor Stickland wants the digitals. She claims there hasn't been a "serious" discussion.

Since she is on the losing side she would have us believe that all the citizens, neighborhood councils, and planning commission members are not being serious. This reflects a narcissitic personality disorder. She should make an appointment with a doctor and have that evaluated.

Re: the anti-digital billboard pledge by council candidates. I would like candidates to share all their views with the voters but am only having limited success on the roundtable forum. I'm pretty sure the candidates would rather play it safe by saying nothing about city government. They'd prefer to talk about the wives, their mother in laws, and the movies they've seen. It's no wonder that civic apathy is so pronounced in Tacoma.

by Erik on 8/10/2011 @ 1:53pm
I like the part of Jake Fey's comments that he does not want to have to deal with billboards for a long, long time.

I mean really. Tacoma just passed a new billboard code after months of conflict. Let's take a few years to see how it works and defend it. Having everything up in the air all of the time just creates chaos and is likely to fill city hall up with more paid lobbyists trying to keep blightful billboards from being removed.

by fredo on 8/10/2011 @ 2:00pm
very observant Erik. Lets table any further talk of digitals for a few years and try living with just the conforming static billboards. If we have to turn off the digital Cheney and digital Tacoma Dome signs to create some sort of "fairness" I'm OK with that. This prolonged sign dispute is really becoming unnecessarily corrosive.

by NineInchNachos on 8/10/2011 @ 2:10pm
losing the Dome billboard would be a win-win-win-win

by panachronic on 8/10/2011 @ 2:26pm
"losing the Dome billboard would be a win-win-win-win"

You know, you might have something here.

The Dome sign would be perfectly fine under the ordinance, of course. Legally, it's in a different category than billboards.

But once we spank Clear Channel, maybe we should look at removing it anyway. Because then we could go to the tribe and say, "Look, you people are the last assholes left who haven't cleaned up your act."

Shame is a powerful tool. (Sometimes.)

by Jesse on 8/10/2011 @ 2:32pm
Lol. No comment.

by Erik on 8/10/2011 @ 2:48pm

by Erik on 8/10/2011 @ 2:51pm
I suspect it is going to "take awhile" to find and remove all of the non-complying blightful billboards. Just a guess. Let's do that first.

Re: the Tacoma Dome on premise sign. It is not a billboard as it is on the premises of the Tacoma dome in an area no one lives behind. CC should not be able to use that as any excuse to erect digital billboards in the city.

by fredo on 8/10/2011 @ 3:13pm
I brought that up because the Mayor thinks we should allow the Clear Channel digitals because the City of Tacoma has a digital at Cheney Stadium and at the Tacoma Dome. She claims its unfair to Clear Channel. I would rather have these two signs switched off before allowing any Clear Channel digitals. It's hard for the city of Tacoma to hold the moral high ground on billboards if we don't conform to the spirit of the law ourselves. That's all I'm saying.

by NineInchNachos on 8/10/2011 @ 3:33pm
here is a beautiful idea lifted from facebook...

Steven M Garrett 3:11pm Aug 10
Remember when Pierce County picked a fight with Big Tobacco and won? Washington State then instituted Pierce County's regulations and most states in the nation followed. Imagine a billboard free world. It can start here.

by panachronic on 8/10/2011 @ 7:36pm
" It's hard for the city of Tacoma to hold the moral high ground on billboards if we don't conform to the spirit of the law ourselves. That's all I'm saying."

Isn't the solution obvious? Let Clear Channel pay off the bonds on Cheney Stadium and the Tacoma Dome, so they can have an indisputable right to at least two digital billboards.

Soblem prolved!

by NineInchNachos on 8/10/2011 @ 7:42pm

by Joel 413 on 8/11/2011 @ 8:09am
When Billboards were bill boards.

I highly recommend you take a look at the entire gallery here. There are some hidden gems in there I didn't post below.

by fredo on 8/11/2011 @ 9:18am
Maybe if Marsha Moody's billboards showed her in a bra people wouldn't find them so offensive. Just sayin'

by Erik on 8/11/2011 @ 3:42pm
Tacoman's victory over the threat of digital billboards as reported in the Tacoma Weekly:


by Erik on 8/12/2011 @ 6:47pm
The awesome Weekly Volcano:

"City Council finally sticks up for Tacoma on billboards":