Tacoma Urbanist

May. 20, 2011 at 12:01am

Interactive Map of Non-Conforming Blightful Billboards in Tacoma Released by Tacoma Mama

After many hours of hard work, Tacoma resident and influential blogger Jennifer Boutell, aka "Tacomamamma" has constructed and published a Google Map of Non-complying billboards in Tacoma.

An impressive citizen effort.  This is the still image of location of the billboards.

Click here for the interactive Google Map of the non-conforming billboards which also indicates why (according to the City of Tacoma) each one is non-conforming.  There are also pictures shown at each pinpoint.

These were the billboards that were slated to be taken down in 2007 and should be taken down if Tacoma's 1997 billboard law is enforced.

Excellent citizen work Jen!

Raw Data

The spreadsheet of non-conforming billboards released by the City of Tacoma can be found here as a cross reference.

In 2007, the City of Tacoma calculated that 76 percent of billboards in Tacoma were non-complying.

Blightful Billboards on Flickr

A number of Tacomans have been taking pictures of especially blightful billboards in Tacoma and posting them in a Flickr photo pool. Feel free to post yours here.

Here is one of them:

Truly garbage on a stick......

comments [24]  |  posted under tacoma


by KevinFreitas on 5/20/2011 @ 7:16am
Wow @jenyum, FANTASTIC work! Time for the City to show their true colors and stand up to all this blight that Clear Channel had 10 years to either remove or seek permits for billboards that would be in compliance with our city's completely lawful 1997 sign ordinance.

10 years to move and/or remove 146 billboards -- that's a mere 15 or so per year! Clearly (pun intended) a company as willing to threaten Tacoma with "costly litigation" could handle dealing with permits on 15 billboards a year.

I'm glad the City Council voted for the moratorium the other day and appreciated most of the members who spoke about a "step back and breathe" tone but that doesn't mean stepping back from the strong position the people you answer to have taken and that's one of complete opposition to caving to Clear Channel.

To the City Council: Find precedent. Do research into other municipalities solutions. Get on the phone. Call a meeting with other municipalities. Whatever it takes. But, in the end, Clear Channel had plenty of time they just chose to ignore us. Well, ignore us no more Goliath because David is pissed.

by KevinFreitas on 5/20/2011 @ 7:24am
Holy crap... think Clear Channel is even a medium-sized business just trying to make a living? Check out this incredible list of Clear Channel owned media: www.cjr.org/resources/?c=clearchannel

And that doesn't even speak to what Clear Channel Outdoor owns, operates, and does!

by NineInchNachos on 5/20/2011 @ 7:57am
I encourage folks to visit with the closest non-conforming billboards near their house and post photos here to the flickr group


come on kevin post your 'constitutions matter' pics!

by jenyum on 5/20/2011 @ 7:58am
Glad you like it! Well I mean, not "like" like it....

What got me while I was putting it together was the way they seem to be clustered in massive groups, an intersection won't have just one billboard, it will have 5 or 6 at consecutive addresses, and all of this in a residential area. Central Tacoma is just solid blue.

by NineInchNachos on 5/20/2011 @ 8:03am
Central Tacoma is GROUND ZERO in the blight holocaust.

by KevinFreitas on 5/20/2011 @ 8:39am
@RR: Not an avid user/fan of Flickr but keep reminding me and I'll try and hop on this weekend and do so. May take the map and random spot-check a few non-conforming billboards to look for more blight on blight.

by jenyum on 5/20/2011 @ 9:25am

3519 6th Ave (6th and Union)

Tacoma's sign code specifically requires the backs of billboards to be covered, yet 14 years after enactment, the homes behind this monstrosity still get to enjoy this view. This billboard is also illegal due to location, but I see no justification for not following other simple requirements of the sign code.

This is not good corporate citizenship.

by fredo on 5/20/2011 @ 9:43am
Not only are the backs not covered they are frequently coated with grafitti which is also not allowed.

Jen, that is quite a wonderful tool you've created.

Probably should be some boots on the ground to make sure that every sign is accurately noted. I did a complete inspection of the Proctor District. There are 5 roof mounted signs. None has the required back screening. One of the signs hasn't had an ad on it for months or maybe years. The signs that do have ads or PSAs are all vinyl stretched ads. I don't think those are allowed under Tacoma law. The advertisements are all supposed to be made of paper or hand painted. Somebody please check this for me. That's the way I read the law.

by NineInchNachos on 5/20/2011 @ 9:52am
do you have a digital camera fredo? lets see those signs!

people need to see charming Proctor establishments with nasty billboard wrecks on top.

by cisserosmiley on 5/20/2011 @ 9:59am
fredo has cave drawings

by NSHDscott on 5/20/2011 @ 10:07am
Hey, it's Friday! A drink for every time "blight" is mentioned in an Urbanist post about billboards should do the trick for me. Anyone else in?

by jenyum on 5/20/2011 @ 10:09am
I can't do every sign and stay married, unfortunately. But yes please take some photos!

The code defines a billboard as:

1. Poster panels or bulletins normally mounted on a
building wall or freestanding structure with
advertising copy in the form of posted paper.
2. Painted bulletins, where the message of the
advertiser is painted directly on the background of a
wall-mounted or freestanding display area.

but does not specifically discuss billboard type signs which are not constructed this way (with stretched vinyl, etc) or specify any penalties for non-complying construction. (Although it does say they should be well constructed and well maintained) Another reason why the planning commission needs to overhaul the code.

by fredo on 5/20/2011 @ 10:18am
I understand Jen. I'll see if I can post some photos. I'm not really computer savvy whatsoever so I'm sort of handicapped in that way.

RE: the vinyl stretched signs. As I read it those are not allowed since they are not created from paper or directly painted. This is more ammunition for the anti-billboard foes.

One of the best postings was NSHDScotts proposed drinking game. It was a splendid idea and should attract a lot of interest on a beautiful Friday afternoon.

Have a good one, fellow feedtacomanians.

by NineInchNachos on 5/20/2011 @ 10:25am
crowd sourcing!

if everybody does a little bit it can quickly overwhelm any hired lobbyist and or firm. Duty now, for the future!

by Hilltop Tacoma on 5/20/2011 @ 11:15am
This is such a revealing post. The map is incredible. Thank you for the information and the work put into gathering it.

by Erik on 5/20/2011 @ 12:26pm
The interactive map is especially good when compared with the proposed "Billboard Receiving Area" map.

6th and Union Billboard

This billboard location is interesting. Under the 1997 law, the billboard was supposed to be removed.

Under the settlement/capitulation proposal of the city, the 6th and Union location was to be the location of an digital billboard.

Kind of shame too. The billboard there keeping any development from happening on 6th and Union right across from Metronome Coffee which is housed in a new well constructed three story retail office building.

One of the commentators stated that the billboards is hurting development there:

Terry Lumsden said billboards at the intersection of 6th and Union avenues have scared away developers from property he owns there. He told the council he thinks Clear Channel is watching the situation in Tacoma closely, as it might impact controversy over billboards around the nation...


by jenyum on 5/20/2011 @ 12:38pm
I believe 6th and Sprague (Division) is also a "receiving area" for a digital billboard. In front of a church, across from a school, adjacent to a residential neighborhood.... the intent of the 1997 law is just irrelevant? Look for a possible cameo of that billboard on KOMO news later today.

by NineInchNachos on 5/20/2011 @ 1:25pm
crush the bastards!

by fredo on 5/20/2011 @ 1:43pm
jenyum wrote:

"I believe 6th and Sprague (Division) is also a "receiving area" for a digital billboard"

That does seem to be ground zero in the digital billboard war. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Tacomans don't want to "receive" the digitals. I just saw a bunch of these down in Phoenix and I don't think they will be good for our city. Furthermore, once we have a few of them, it will be almost impossible to change course.

We'd better make our best stand NOW!

by NineInchNachos on 5/20/2011 @ 1:59pm

by fredo on 5/20/2011 @ 2:03pm
PUBES rule!

by jenyum on 5/20/2011 @ 2:15pm
Hah! Tune in to KOMO news (channel 4) at 4:00 for the Big Poop Story featuring yours truly, the very nice general manager of It's Greek to Me, and some people at the zoo. Unless it is bumped by something more important, although what could be more important, I truly cannot imagine.

by jenyum on 5/20/2011 @ 5:31pm
Correction: Big Poop Story at 6:00, tune in to KOMO news channel 4, for the most important news story of our time.

by Jesse on 5/20/2011 @ 7:12pm
Great map!!

Can I be in P.U.B.E.S. too???