Tacoma Urbanist

Mar. 22, 2011 at 12:41am

Report: Opposition Mounts to Electronic Billboard Proposal in Tacoma

Must Tacomans be subjected to 24/7 Visual TV Commercial Spam?


Many cities around the nation have successfully banned electronic billboards. Yet, Tacoma seems to be doing everything it can to invite them in. Today, the News Tribune reports on the overwhelming public opposition to forcing electronic billboards into Tacoma: 

When the Tacoma City Council approved a legal settlement last year that would allow Clear Channel Outdoor to erect digital billboards in exchange for removing more regular ones, two council members and the city attorney called it a compromise.But more than 30 Tacomans made clear in public comment last week that they want no such compromise. Three neighborhood associations have written letters of complaint, and loosely organized protests have sprung up online.Testifying last week before the planning commission, which is considering whether to change city code on billboards to reflect the settlement, residents said digital billboards had no place in the city. Several wondered why the city didnt fight Clear Channels lawsuit and defend its 1997 ordinance banning billboards.

For more information

On the Tacoma billboard issue, read the Central Neighborhood website especially the discussion by attorney Doug Schafer suggesting that the current 1997 Tacoma Billboard Ordinance may well be valid if it were defended in court.

Nationally, read the many articles on how to reduce billboard blight from the national group Scenic America and Ban Billboard Blight.  Tacoma is not alone in the battle to reduce visual blight.
Keep up to the date on the issue by liking the Facebook group "Turn Out That Light."

Action Steps

1) Contact  the Tacoma Planning Commission in opposition to electronic billboards by March 25th.

comments [14]  |  posted under Tacoma


by Erik on 3/22/2011 @ 2:14am
Before and after billboards: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgwcVkKtEnk

by Erik on 3/22/2011 @ 2:31am
BTW, "settling" can be a disaster:
Clear Channel, et al v. City of Los Angeles

Clear Channel, along with three other companies—Vista Media, CBS Outdoor, and Regency Outdoor—filed suit against the city in 2002, challenging the constitutionality of the off-site sign ban as well as a program adopted at the same time to conduct a fee-based inventory and inspection of all existing billboards in the city. The federal court upheld the constitutionality of the ban, but the companies continued to press a claim in state court that the annual fee of $386 per billboard for the inspection and inventory program was confiscatory. Before the court could rule on this claim, the city and the companies reached an out-of-court settlement in 2006 that was widely regarded as a disaster for the city. Among other things, it allowed the conversion of more than 800 conventional billboards to digital, and grandfathered hundreds of billboards erected or modified illegally.


by fredo on 3/22/2011 @ 5:31am
The Mayor and City Manager have commented that it will cost "millions" to defend our law. I'm not an attorney but that's a little hard for me to swallow. Yes, we want to get a couple of the best minds here to put a defense together along with Doug Schaefer and some other motivated locals, but the lawsuit is by Clear Channel. They have the burden of proof.

What's the worst that can happen...we will lose and have to allow the billboards? That's what the city says we should agree to now.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that it does cost millions to win. That cost is going to be amortized for eternity. In other words, the benefits of winning the suit will be enjoyed every year into the future. Let's try to pass something on to a future generation that they will look back on with pride.
Paying a few million today so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy an unobstruced view of the sky seems like a wonderful investment to me.

by Jesse on 3/22/2011 @ 7:52am
If the city won a lawsuit against Clear Channel, couldn't it collect on the outstanding fines Clear Channel has racked up? Wouldn't that pay for the lawsuit?

Why is the city treating the law like it's meaningless? Is it because it stands to lose money? What if I were a scoff-law and had a business in DT and NEVER paid any B&O tax, license fees, fines, or whatever? What do you suppose would happen to me? Why is Clear Channel different?

by NineInchNachos on 3/22/2011 @ 8:17am
NEVER give up! NEVER surrender!

by fredo on 3/22/2011 @ 9:15am
Four city council seats are coming up for election in November. It might be too late by then, but it occured to me that it might be helpful if we could get people running for these seats who were staunchly anit-billboard. Maybe the Mayor will have an epiphany and say something helpful too.

by Nick on 3/22/2011 @ 10:53am
@fredo It might also be beneficial to point out to the council that if the public comment was any indication, Tacoma voters don't want billboards. That could be worth considering as the council considers what to do next.

by Erik on 3/22/2011 @ 11:40am
@Nick: what we have learned is that this issue is more political than legal at this point. The question now is whether Tacoma is simply willing to stand up for the 1997 billboard law that bans electronic billboards and reduces the number of traditional billboards.

by Nick on 3/22/2011 @ 11:51am
I for one can attest that my future ballots will heavily depend on how the current council members respond to this situation.

by NineInchNachos on 3/22/2011 @ 12:14pm
Come on David Boe and Marty Campbell we know you read this blog. We need fighters ! Ryan, Walker and Woodards will listen to you.... well at least they'll listen to Boe.

by Erik on 3/22/2011 @ 12:20pm
The billboard issue may be the central political issue for this election season and many to follow especially if Tacomans observe as giant spam machines are being erected year after year through out the city.

by The Jinxmedic on 3/22/2011 @ 1:05pm
mmMMMmmmm... ...spam machines....

by Erik on 5/3/2011 @ 11:01am

Unknown author has produced this Tacoma billboard video:


Nice work!

by cisserosmiley on 5/3/2011 @ 11:27am
i am curio o s, did the grlll from tacomwa get a drink width the awesome man from clear channwel