Tacoma Urbanist

May. 18, 2011 at 12:01am

Sanity Prevails: Moratorium Placed on Unconscionable Digital Billboard Threat In Tacoma

Good news on the threat of electronic billboards in Tacoma. From the Tribune:

For up to six months, the City of Tacoma will not accept new applications to construct new billboards or modify existing ones. The moratorium on billboards  adopted unanimously Tuesday by the City Council  is meant to provide more time for city policy-makers to examine an increasingly controversial issue in a more thoughtful way, council members say.

This moratorium gives us a chance to take a breath without making a decision based on emotion, Councilman Marty Campbell said. And, to write the best darn (billboard regulations) code possible.

The councils actions garnered applause from some of the more than 20 residents who publicly spoke out during the meeting, generally criticizing billboards and a proposed settlement between the city and Clear Channel Outdoor as a detriment to Tacomas quality of life. Under the deal, the city would allow the company to put up new digital signs in exchange for removing existing conventional ones.



 

Here is one of the best videos produced with comprehensive on strategies to oppose billboards. Watch it with your city councilmember.

Lots of work to do though in drafting an ordinance banning electronic billboards and enforcing the 1997 billboard ordinance with some beneficial modifications.

Meanwhile, here is the (near) current state of static billboards in Tacoma via Kevin Freitas posted less than a month ago:





comments [63]  |  posted under Tacoma

Comments

by Erik on 5/18/2011 @ 12:09am
Overall good news with much work in the future to make sure Tacoma is not enticed to appease and capitulate again.

For those interested, here is the text of the moratorium passed tonight:

cnc-tacoma.com/images/documents/billboar...

Here is the TV Tacoma recording of tonight's event. The public commentary is very good. CC shows up "shocked" that Tacoma looks to have grown some fortitude to stand up for itself and not give away the farm.

www.ci.tacoma.wa.us/tvtacoma/tacoma/wval...

Boe, Strickland, Lonergan and Fey also make some comments on the billboard issue.

by Erik on 5/18/2011 @ 12:23am
Komo News Update:



It is worth noting, that digital billboards are known to be immensely profitable, and more than one public official has been quoted saying the company is anxious to get them built. The billboards, however, face fierce opposition from people who say they are ugly, distracting and dangerous.

Resident after resident spoke up at Tuesday's meeting, citing common complaints about Tacoma's billboard situation.

tacoma.komonews.com/news/politics/no-new...

by Jesse on 5/18/2011 @ 6:47am
Where is the www.feedtacoma.com "like" button when you need it?

by NineInchNachos on 5/18/2011 @ 7:52am
a funny comment from bookface


Redorblack Nigelbottom: Did they also adopt an ordinance prohibiting any new vandalism at food banks for 6 months while they negotiate a compromise with the vandals who feel blindsided by the community response?

by fredo on 5/18/2011 @ 7:54am
"For up to six months, the City of Tacoma will not accept new applications to construct new billboards or modify existing ones"

I'm must be missing something here. Billboards have been illegal in Tacoma since 2007 and the phase out period began 14 years ago. Why would Tacoma maintain an application process for new billboard construction? I've never heard of a formal application to engage in a prohibited activity.

by fredo on 5/18/2011 @ 7:55am
mmmm.....french fries......yummy

by Jesse on 5/18/2011 @ 8:04am
@ Fredo 7:54am: Lol. You're absolutely right. I bet the council never thought of this obvious fact.

by NineInchNachos on 5/18/2011 @ 8:21am
it's time to call clearchannel what they are: criminals

by cisserosmiley on 5/18/2011 @ 8:24am
good for the moratorium...in the past i have worked close by cc and their (former) lobbyist, moratoriums are a way to keep an issue going from a lobbying perspective - so cc is probably OK with this. next they will negotiate a "sunset"...like, digital billboards for ten years - then they will all go away. then they will hammer away at the sunset over that decade and never move their boards. please be wary, it looks like good action that a moratorium was placed, but it is a win for cc and is temporary protection for us...most lame, the progression of this issue from a legislative standpoint looks OK for cc if the biggest stick the tacoma council is willing to stand with is a 6 month vacation from a huge issue. sounds more like passing the buck until after those 4 council seats are elected and all are safe for a few years - SCARY!

by NineInchNachos on 5/18/2011 @ 8:44am
yes. something to fuel our outrage for 6 months... Thanks!

by Crenshaw Sepulveda on 5/18/2011 @ 8:54am
So the moratorium lasts until after election day, very brave.

by cisserosmiley on 5/18/2011 @ 8:56am
november is a dark and wet month for community action...tacomanians, eat well and be merry this summer becuase cc will bank on this mellowing out and fewer people will care when it is 30 degress whipping wind and rain with 4 oclock darkness and a state leg session starting a month after -november will be hell, do not mellow on digital billboards!

by smeall on 5/18/2011 @ 9:01am
BRAVE

by fredo on 5/18/2011 @ 9:27am
I believe the motion was for a moritorium lasting "up to six months."

To me this means they can spring this back into an action item on the council agenda when the activists least expect it.

I would imagine that Eric Anderson and the woman from Clear channel are meeting today to determine the best strategy.

by cisserosmiley on 5/18/2011 @ 9:35am
exactly correct fredo, in fact if you read the account of how the moratorium was brought after a closed door meeting with attorneys on friday, it does not claim that these attorneys were cc's or tacoma's. i think we would all like to think cc lobbyists do not make city of tacoma agenda...but they do!

by jenyum on 5/18/2011 @ 9:55am
@fredo, no I don't think all billboards are illegal under the 1997 ordinance, they are just very strictly regulated as to where they can be. (Not too close to a church/school/residence etc) Most placements in Tacoma are probably illegal under the current ordinance, especially the one at 6th and Division.

by NineInchNachos on 5/18/2011 @ 10:02am
well now, maybe I just should have thrown my shoes at the president of Clear Channel.

by KevinFreitas on 5/18/2011 @ 10:10am
Thx for chiming in @jenyum. You're exactly right. Tacoma's 1997 ordinance doesn't so "no" to all billboards. So Clear Channel and any other media company is simply being told where they can't put them. That's it. No 1st Amendment, freedom of speech anything applies here (sorry Marty, completely disagree with you on that one from last night). Speech is limited all the time for the sake of a civil society (see also: letting your grass get too long in a neighborhood with an association and dues, signage size/look regulations in business districts, kids not able to just go off whenever they want in class, or citizens who can't go off at city council meetings).

There's no speech issue here at all and Clear Channel or any other outdoor media company is welcome to earn their money honestly by adhering to our reasonable rules to help preserve our livable community.

by fredo on 5/18/2011 @ 10:29am
Well, this really throws a new wrinkle into the billboard discussion. All along the commentary seems to be that the existing billboards in town are illegal when in fact they aren't.

Does anyone have time to post the 1997 billboard law so we may examine it more closely?

by NineInchNachos on 5/18/2011 @ 10:57am
not all billboards are illegal. Most billboards are illegal. There is a tiny minority of compliant billboards somewhere in Tacoma. Clear Channel has had from 1997 to 2007 to do something about the illegal billboards and they did diddly jack squat about them. Since 2007 they've been racking up fines at 2300 dollars a day which is up to about 32 million dollars now. Why the city needs 6 more months to cool down peoples jets is mystifying. A lot of people are going to freak out if the city rolls over on this issue again. A question of every candidate in November needs to be how they view the clear channel threats and criminal acts of agression....

VOTE ANDERS IBSEN!

by jenyum on 5/18/2011 @ 10:58am
Oh, City of Tacoma, if you ever put your city code online in an easily searchable and google indexible format I will be your best friend. Good gravy, it's 2011. Get a summer intern and make it happen.

Excerpts from Section 13 of the Tacoma Municipal Code (Land Use)

Definition of billboard:

Billboard sign. A sign which advertises goods,
products, events, or services not necessarily sold on
the premises on which the sign is located; however, a
person, business, or event located on the premises
shall not be identified. The sign may consist of:
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.


Then the regulations kick in here: (as you can see we regulate all kinds of signs, without threats of costly litigation)

D. Special regulations by type of sign. In addition to
the general requirements for all signs contained in
this section, and the specific requirements for signs in
each zone, there are special requirements for the
following types of signs:
1. Wall signs.
2. Projecting signs.
3. Freestanding signs.
4. Marquee signs.
5. Under-marquee signs.
6. Canopy and awning signs.
7. Temporary signs.
8. Off-premises directional signs.
9. Billboards (outdoor advertising sign).
The special requirements for these signs are
contained in subsections E through M of this section.



...
G. Freestanding signs. Special regulations governing
freestanding signs are as follows:
1. No freestanding sign shall be located within 15
feet of a residentially-zoned district, and where the
side of a commercially zoned property abuts the side
of a residentially-zoned property the first 100 feet of
the commercial frontage shall have a sign setback
requirement of 15 feet.
2. Minimum clearance. All freestanding signs shall
have a minimum clearance to the ground as follows: a. Over parking lots and other similar areas where
vehicles are moved or stored, 14-1/2 feet;
b. Over footpaths, sidewalks, and other spaces
accessible to pedestrians, eight feet.
3. Signs shall be located upon the frontage for which
the sign area is calculated.
4. No freestanding sign shall project over a public
right-of-way, unless an adjacent structure or sign is
built out to or over the property line that blocks
visibility to a freestanding sign on the adjoining
property; then, such freestanding sign may be located
so that the sign structure is on private property and
the sign cabinet may project over the right-of-way,
subject to all the provisions regulating projecting
signs which project over rights-of-way.
5. Signs placed on public property and/or right-ofway, abutting the business for which they identify,
will require a Street Occupancy Permit. Sign
regulations shall be determined by the zoning district
of the abutting property.


...and then specific to billboards:


M. Billboards (outdoor advertising signs). Special
regulations governing billboards are as follows:
1. a. Any person, firm, or corporation who maintains
billboard structures and faces within the City of
Tacoma shall be authorized to maintain only that
number of billboard structures and faces that they
maintained on April 12, 1988, except for transfers
permitted in subsection 1.c of this section. A person
who maintains any such billboard structures and
faces may, thereafter, relocate a billboard face or
structure to a new location as otherwise authorized by
this section. No other billboards shall be authorized,
and there shall be no greater total number of billboard
structures and faces within the City than the number
that were in existence on April 12, 1988. That
number of structures and faces shall include those for
which permit applications had been filed prior to
April 13, 1988. As unincorporated areas are annexed
to the City of Tacoma, the total number of billboard
structures and faces in that area will constitute an
addition to the number authorized in the City of
Tacoma.

b. Upon removal of an existing billboard face or
structure, a relocation permit shall be issued
authorizing relocation of the face to a new site.
There shall be no time limit on the billboard owner’s
eligibility to utilize such relocation permits. In the
event that a billboard owner wishes to remove a
billboard and does not have immediate plans for
replacement at a new location, an inactive relocation
permit shall be issued. There shall be no time limit
on the activation of the inactive permit and such
permits are transferable. The application for a
relocation permit shall include an accurate site plan
and vicinity map of the billboard face or structure to
be removed, as well as a site plan and vicinity map
for the new location. Site plans and vicinity maps
shall include sufficient information to determine
compliance with the regulations of this chapter. The
above provisions shall not apply to billboards whose
permit applications were applied for prior to April 13,
1988, and not erected, unless the applicants or
owners agree within 60 days to have such billboards,
subject to all the provisions of this chapter.

c. Relocation permits shall be transferable upon the
billboard owner’s written permission.

d. In no case shall the number of billboard faces or
structures increase, and the square footage of
billboard sign area to be relocated shall be equal to or
less than the square footage of billboard sign area to
be removed. Removal of a billboard structure shall
also require the issuance of a demolition permit, and
removal of billboard faces and structures shall be
completed prior to the installation of relocated
billboard faces or structures. The billboard owner
shall have the right to accumulate the amount of
square footage to be allowed, at the owner’s
discretion, to new sign faces and structures permitted
under this chapter.
2. All billboards shall be maintained in good repair in
compliance with all applicable building code
requirements. The exposed area of backs of
billboards must be covered to present an attractive
and finished appearance.
3. Each sign structure must, at all times, include a
facing of proper dimensions to conceal back bracing
and framework of structural members. During
periods of repair, alteration, or copy change, such
facing may be removed for a maximum period of
48 consecutive hours.
4. a. Not more than a total of four billboard faces
attached to not more than two support structures shall
be permitted on both sides of a street within any
distance of 1,000 feet measured laterally along the
right-of-way, with a minimum of 100 feet between
such structures.
b. There shall be at least 300 linear feet of land,
which is properly zoned, which permits billboards on
one side of the street in order to erect one billboard
structure on that side of the street. There shall be at
least 600 linear feet of land, which is properly zoned,
which permits billboards on one side of the street in
order to erect more than one billboard structure on
that side of the street.
c. The property on the opposite side of the street from
the proposed billboard location must also be properly
zoned to permit billboards.
5. The maximum area of any one sign shall be
300 square feet, with a maximum vertical sign face
dimension of 12.5 feet and maximum length of
25 feet, inclusive of any border and trim, but
excluding the base or apron, supports, and other
structural members; provided, cut-outs and
extensions may add up to 20 percent of additional
sign area.
6. Indirect or internal lighting shall be the only
allowable means of illumination. No flashing signs
shall be permitted.
7. No billboard shall be located on, in, or within
250 feet of:
a. A residential district;
b. Any publicly-owned open space, playground, park,
or recreational property, as recognized in the adopted
“Recreation and Open Space Facilities Plan,” as
amended;
c. Any church or school; or
d. Any designated historic district, whether on the
federal, state, or local register of historic properties.
8. No billboard shall be located on, in, or within
375 feet of any shoreline district.
9. Rooftop (billboard) signs are prohibited.
10. The maximum height of all billboard signs shall
be 30 feet, except in the PMI District, where the
maximum height shall be 45 feet. For the purpose of
this section, height shall be the distance to the top of
the normal display face from the main traveled way
of the road from which the sign is to be viewed.
11. Billboard signs which advertise a business, event,
or person located on the same premises as the
billboard sign shall be considered an on-premises
sign and must meet all criteria for the location of onpremises signs.
N. Nonconforming signs. It is the intent of this
subsection to allow the continued existence of legal
nonconforming signs, subject, however, to the
following restrictions:
1. No sign that had previously been erected in
violation of any City Code shall, by virtue of the
adoption of this section, become a legal
nonconforming sign.
2. No nonconforming sign shall be changed,
expanded, or altered in any manner which would
increase the degree of its nonconformity, or be
structurally altered to prolong its useful life, or be
moved, in whole or in part, to any other location
where it would remain nonconforming. However, a
legal nonconforming on-premises sign may be altered
if the degree of nonconformity for height and sign
area is decreased by 25 percent or greater. For
purposes of this subsection, normal maintenance and
repair, including painting, cleaning, or replacing
damaged parts of a sign, shall not be considered a
structural alteration.
3. Any sign which is discontinued for a period of 90
consecutive days, regardless of any intent to resume
or not to abandon such use, shall be presumed to be
abandoned and shall not, thereafter, be reestablished,
except in full compliance with this chapter. Any
period of such discontinuance caused by government
actions, strikes, material shortages, acts of God, and
without any contributing fault by the sign user, shall
not be considered in calculating the length of
discontinuance for purposes of this section.
4. Any nonconforming sign damaged or destroyed,
by any means, to the extent of one-half of its
replacement cost new shall be terminated and shall
not be restored.
5. All existing billboards within the City which are
not in compliance with the requirements of this
section on July 22, 1997, are considered to be
nonconforming billboards. Nonconforming
billboards shall be made to conform with the
requirements of this section under the following
circumstances:
a. When any new sign for which a sign permit is
required by this section is proposed to be installed on
a premises upon which is located a nonconforming
billboard, the billboard shall be removed or brought
into conformance with this section for each new sign
installed for a particular business.
b. Whenever a building, or portion thereof, upon
which is located a nonconforming rooftop (billboard)
sign is proposed to be expanded or remodeled, all
nonconforming rooftop billboard signs located on
that portion of the building being remodeled or
expanded shall be removed or brought into
compliance with this section if such expansion or
remodel adds to the building the lesser of:
(1) Twenty percent or more of the floor area of the
existing building;
(2) One thousand square feet floor area; and
(3) A value for the new construction or remodeling
greater than or equal to 50 percent of the assessed
value of the existing building.
c. Whenever any modification is to be made to the
structure, frame, or support of any nonconforming
billboard sign, such nonconforming billboard sign
shall be removed or brought into conformance with
this section.
d. Whenever the facade of a building upon which is
located a nonconforming billboard wall sign is
remodeled or renovated, all nonconforming billboard
wall signs located on the portion of the facade being
renovated shall be brought into conformance with
this section.
6. The provisions of subsection 5 shall control,
except in those instances where an applicant or owner
can demonstrate that there exists a binding contract to
allow a billboard sign that contains financial penalty
provisions for early termination or the absence of
termination provisions in the contracts with billboard
companies. In those instances, a permit may be
issued on the condition that when the contract for the
billboard expires, or an option for renewal occurs, the
billboard will then be removed, pursuant to
subsection 5 above.
a. To insure compliance with this section, the
property owner shall enter into an agreement with the
City that identifies the termination date of the
contract to allow the billboard and a provision that, if
the billboard is not removed, the sign permit issued
pursuant to this section will be revoked and the sign
will be removed, pursuant to subsection c below.
b. This provision shall only apply to contracts entered
into prior to the adoption of these regulations
(July 22, 1997).
c. Any business owner or property owner seeking to
obtain a sign permit for a property that has a
nonconforming billboard located on it, and can
demonstrate that there are either penalty provisions or
the absence of termination provisions in the contracts
with billboard companies in the City, shall apply for
approval in accordance with the following
procedures:
(1) Application. Prior to installation of a sign, the
property owner shall apply for a sign permit with
Building and Land Use Services. A complete
application shall include a properly completed
application form, structural plans, and fees, as
prescribed in subsection c.(2) below.
(2) Fees. An applicant shall pay a fee for the
inspection, notification, recording, and enforcement
related to the continuation of nonconforming
billboards, pursuant to Section 2.09.080, and is in
addition to any other required fees.
(3) Concomitant agreement. Prior to the approval of
the sign permit, the property owner shall execute a
concomitant agreement with the City. Such
agreement shall be in a form as specified by Building
and Land Use Services, and approved by the City
Attorney, and shall include, at a minimum: (a) the
legal description of the property which has been
permitted for the sign permit; and (b) the conditions
necessary to apply the restrictions and limitations
contained in this section. The concomitant
agreement will be recorded prior to issuance of a sign
permit by Building and Land Use Services. The
concomitant agreement shall run with the land until
the nonconforming billboard is removed from the
property. The property owner may, at any time,
apply to Building and Land Use Services for a
termination of the concomitant agreement. Such
termination shall be granted, upon proof that the
business sign no longer exists on the property or upon
proof that the nonconforming billboard no longer
exists on the property.
(4) Permit issuance. Upon receipt of a complete
application, application fees, completed concomitant
agreement, and upon approval of the structural plans,
a sign permit shall be approved.
(5) Violations. A violation of this section regarding
provision of ownership shall be governed by
Section 13.05.100.
(6) Amortization. All legal nonconforming billboard
signs shall be discontinued and removed or made
conforming within ten years from the effective date
of this section, on or before August 1, 2007, and all
billboard signs, which are made nonconforming by a
subsequent amendment to this section, shall be
discontinued and removed or made conforming
within ten years after the date of such amendment
(collectively the “amortization period”). Upon the
expiration of the amortization period, the billboard
sign shall be brought into conformance with this
section, with a permit obtained, or be removed.
Nonconforming billboard signs that are removed
prior to the end of the amortization period shall be
given an inactive relocation permit, pursuant to
subsection M.1.b. of this section.


So, to make a long story short: yes, it is technically possible for Clear Channel to still own legal billboards within the city of Tacoma (because they owned them prior to 1988) but they would have to be facing streets that also are properly zoned for billboards, can't be within 250 feet of a residential district, church, park, school, historic district, or any public space. Not many places would qualify, probably only the freeway facing signs would still qualify.

cms.cityoftacoma.org/cityclerk/Files/Mun...

Of note: the 90 day requirement to remove derelict signs. Pretty sure I've seen some go much longer than that. Why are we not enforcing that provision, City?

by fredo on 5/18/2011 @ 11:14am
jen, I probably could have found the law but I knew someone else, like you, could find it faster and post it in an easily readable format. thanks for your help.

It would also help if we had a 2 spreadsheets. One with the illegal signs and their Clear channel registration numbers and locations shown and another with the legal billboards shown. It's pretty hard to launch a boycott against the illegal billboard advertisers if we don't even have a way to distinguish the illegal billboards from the legal ones.

by jenyum on 5/18/2011 @ 11:29am
I see reference to "193 nonconforming billboards" but cannot find an actual list (note: settlement agreement would only remove 53 and I see no mention of whether these 53 are nonconforming)

I'll keep looking. My favorite nonconforming billboard is the one at 6th and Division though, this one is easy because it sits directly in front of a church and directly across from a school. Why it is still there baffles me, but even worse it often shows signs for publicly owned agencies such as the current one for the Point Defiance Zoo.

by Erik on 5/18/2011 @ 11:31am
This 2007 post may help:

76% of Tacoma billboards 'non-complying'

A report from the City Manager to the City Council states that 76% of all Tacoma billboards don't comply with a 1997 ordinance. Ten years later, the compliance grace period will be up in August. The report reads:

...Bill Pugh provides the following report on the status of billboards within the City of Tacoma. In 1997 the City Council adopted TMC 13.06.524 requiring all legal nonconforming billboard signs to be discontinued and removed, or made conforming within ten years from the effective date of the new regulations.

The end of the ten-year amortization period will occur on August 1, 2007. In December 2005, City staff advised Clear Channel of the upcoming compliance date; and, the Council was subsequently briefed at a July 2006 Study Session.

Our records indicate that 76% of the 193 billboards are nonconforming and Clear Channel is the owner of all billboard signs within the City at this time. Next week the Building and Land Use Services Division will send letters to Clear Channel and owners of the property where signs are located, requesting a schedule that addresses the removal or billboard structures, or how they will be brought into compliance with the code by August 1, 2007. Should property owners fail to comply, Tacoma Municipal Code Section 13.06.610 provides for fines and penalties that address code violations.


www.kevinfreitas.net/journal/tacoma-bill...

by fredo on 5/18/2011 @ 11:31am
The city shouldn't allow any postings on illegal billboards for city services, even if the posting is donated by clear channel. This is immoral IMO.

by jenyum on 5/18/2011 @ 11:32am
Aha! Here we go. Thanks, Central Neighborhood Council, for the informative website.

cnc-tacoma.com/images/documents/billboar...

(those with status "NC" are nonconforming -- most of them)

by fredo on 5/18/2011 @ 11:41am
thanks jen

by NineInchNachos on 5/18/2011 @ 11:41am
central tacoma rules

by jenyum on 5/18/2011 @ 1:04pm
Abandoned billboards:



(6th and Alder, 3111 6th Ave, listed as non-conforming)

These signs are not just non-conforming, they are officially abandoned having fallen out of use for much longer than 90 days. Is the city not enforcing any part of the sign code against Clear Channel?

Or what about the large "Crime Stoppers" billboard at 6th & Union? This billboard is bordered on more than one side by a residential neighborhood, yet not only is it still there (and showing a message from yet another publicly owned agency) its back has not been covered in the 10 years Clear Channel has had to comply with ordinance changes. Not only does CC not want to remove the billboards, they are also not going to comply with simple requirements like covering their backs so the neighborhood doesn't have to look at the ugly exposed back side?

The entire ordinance should be non-negotiable, but some of these things are just inexcusable. They have no relation to free speech or property rights and are just a flagrant violation of basic city regulations that any small business would be required to follow.

by Erik on 5/18/2011 @ 1:14pm
Nice picture.

Yes, "Litter on a Stick" is a very appropriate description.

www.scenic.org/billboards

by jenyum on 5/18/2011 @ 1:27pm
Another one:

www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10821977...

These need to be removed today.

by KevinFreitas on 5/18/2011 @ 1:38pm
That latter one got a new ad only a week after I blogged about it (i.feedtacoma.com/KevinFreitas/hey-clear-...) and I suspect the same will be done with the other example shown above at 6th and Alder. Great thing we have photo proof for future reference! Blight like that doesn't come about leaving a billboard sit for a day or week so it's good ammo for how Clear Channel generally couldn't give a crap.

And, let's not all forget, Clear Channel Outdoor deals in much more than just billboards. It's likely that all Sound Transit (Pierce Transit uses titan360.com) bus and light rail wraps are through Clear Channel as well. They have plenty of opportunities for revenue generators in this area so limiting them in the billboard world to conforming locations/appearance and non-digital really doesn't limit them much at all. On the flip side, our community gains an invaluable jump in livability.

by fredo on 5/18/2011 @ 1:39pm
There are lots of code violations regarding the existing signs as has been pointed out. These violations go back for years with no city action whatsoever as far as I can see.

Last year the Fire Department wrote me up for an out-of-date fire extinguisher. I was given 15 days to correct the defect or told I would get a fine. Then in January I got a letter from the city of Tacoma explaining that I had underpaid one of my quarterly taxes by $7. It contained a lengthy explanation of all the problems which would happen if I didn't send them their $7 immediately. In case anyone is curious I put in a new fire extinguisher and sent in the $7 with a heartfelt letter of apology.

My question is this. Why does the city insist that small businesses conform to all applicable laws but big businesses can do whatever they want?

by jenyum on 5/18/2011 @ 1:45pm
The way I read the ordinance they should lose their right the billboards if they have fallen into disuse for 90 days. They should not be allowed to replace them, the boards should be removed.

by fredo on 5/18/2011 @ 1:57pm
jenyum wrote:

The way I read the ordinance they should lose their right the billboards if they have fallen into disuse for 90 days. They should not be allowed to replace them, the boards should be removed.

Good point. The boards that Clear Channel is prepared to "give up" in exchange for the digitals are probably these boards you're talking about Jen. And I would argue that they can't give up something they don't have a legal right to be in possession of.

We can't allow Eric Anderson to pull an Arnold Schwartzenegger on our city.

by NineInchNachos on 5/18/2011 @ 2:12pm
Perhaps Fredo can work his contacts with W. Dixion to donate some demolition claw cranes to the cause

by cisserosmiley on 5/18/2011 @ 2:19pm
can WE just put up permanent outdoor art on these boards? just do it...climb up and make something. the cost of fixing them will drive cc out of tacomania

by NineInchNachos on 5/18/2011 @ 2:27pm
an interesting observation about free speech and clear channel,
If you have 'clear channel outdoor' and Olivia Lippens entered into a google alert notification ( i recommend anyone interested in following a specific topic to learn about google alerts) you learn some interesting things..

recently in Seattle Olivia removed some racy anti-Israeli (pro Palestinian depending on your POV) because Jewish groups just threatened to boycott businesses who use clear channel billboards. The Palestinian group claimed that their freedom of speech rights were violated.

slog.thestranger.com/slog/archives/2011/...

and

www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/afdi-de...

Clear Channel is only worried about Constitutions Mattering when they have money on the line. All other times? WHO FUCKING CARES!

www.exit133.com/1989/constitutions-matte...

by Nick on 5/18/2011 @ 2:33pm
Also I think the boycott idea doesn't need to be limited to specific billboards that are illegal under current city code. This isn't just about a few illegal signs, this is about an arrogant private company walking all over our city code without any regard for the consequences.

by NineInchNachos on 5/18/2011 @ 2:39pm
consequences? they wrote the draft compromise legislation that Olivia Lippens was shocked and disappointed the council didn't rubber stamp.

by Erik on 5/18/2011 @ 4:29pm
@RR: I believe this is the (smoking gun?) email you are looking for showing who drafted the billboard "settlement legislation":

cnc-tacoma.com/images/documents/billboar...

Disgorged by the City of Tacoma after a record request by Doug Schafer revealing who was running the "negotiations."

by fredo on 5/18/2011 @ 5:00pm
I've read that document that Doug Shaefer requested. It looks like Clear Channel thought of everything, how to keep the old boards up, how to create a monopoly for itself, how to evade the city fines, how to evade the existing billboard codes, how to write laws in such a way that would be beneficial to Clear Channel and no one else. Just one thing they didn't plan for...

a citizenry of people from all sides of the political spectrum united in the fight to preserve a sense of tranquililty in our city. Hope our politicians will sense the inherent good of defending our 1997 billboard law.

by cisserosmiley on 5/18/2011 @ 5:03pm
well there you go...cc's hired guns wrote our city codes. does that make olivio lippens the mayor of tacoma?

by L.S.Erhardt on 5/18/2011 @ 9:42pm
Compile a list of billboards that now legally are defined as "abandoned". Then we go art the hell out of them.

Seriously.

Lets do that for real, not kidding.

by Erik on 5/18/2011 @ 11:51pm
@Thorax: Tacoma Mamma has done just that with her Google Maps of non-conforming billboard map:

Check it out

maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&ms...

Yes, one of the goals of the whole billboard effort is for nonconforming billboards in Tacoma to be removed just like shown in this video:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbNqJoD8_gc

It can be done and has been done in other cities!

by Erik on 5/18/2011 @ 11:53pm
Also, this is perhaps the most notable billboard removal video of all time!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=ua_v8cGG2NM&feat...

Torch needed.

by fredo on 5/19/2011 @ 5:18am
I looked at Jen's map of non-conforming billboards. It says it was compiled in 2007 by the City of Tacoma. I'm pretty sure this is not an exhaustive listing of non conforming billboards. The reason I say this is that there are lots more non-conforming billboards which I guess the city didn't catch or doesn't know about. Please note this requirement for billboards in the City of Tacoma:

2. All billboards shall be maintained in good repair in
compliance with all applicable building code
requirements. The exposed area of backs of
billboards must be covered to present an attractive
and finished appearance.

AND THIS:

7. No billboard shall be located on, in, or within
250 feet of:
a. A residential district;
b. Any publicly-owned open space, playground, park,
or recreational property, as recognized in the adopted
“Recreation and Open Space Facilities Plan,” as
amended;
c. Any church or school; or
d. Any designated historic district, whether on the
federal, state, or local register of historic properties

AND THIS:


3. Any sign which is discontinued for a period of 90
consecutive days, regardless of any intent to resume
or not to abandon such use, shall be presumed to be
abandoned and shall not, thereafter, be reestablished

AND THIS:

(6) Amortization. All legal nonconforming billboard
signs shall be discontinued and removed or made
conforming within ten years from the effective date
of this section, on or before August 1, 2007, and all
billboard signs, which are made nonconforming by a
subsequent amendment to this section, shall be
discontinued and removed or made conforming
within ten years after the date of such amendment
(collectively the “amortization period”).

I'm certainly no attorney, but I would say most of the north end billboards I see violate one or more of these provisions. I saw somewhere that billboards are defined as having advertisements made of paper or painted directly on the sign. I didn't see anywhere that allowed a vinyl sign to be stretched like a fitted bedsheet over the billboard. My guess is those are all illegal.




by Jesse on 5/19/2011 @ 7:57am
Dear Tacoma metal scrap yard,

You are welcome to start the process of taking down Clear Channels illegal billboards in Tacoma. You can keep the money from the metal as a payment for doing your labor. We will expedite any permits you may need.

Signed,
The City of Tacoma

by NineInchNachos on 5/19/2011 @ 7:59am
hey kevin can you post your Constitutions Matter graffiti pics to the flickr group?

by jenyum on 5/19/2011 @ 9:46am
The non-conforming billboard map is only about 25% complete, it's a huge project. (The list it came from was compiled by the City of Tacoma, the google map is just me plugging the addresses in until I have to quit and go do something productive around here)

by fredo on 5/19/2011 @ 9:59am
Jen, we all win when you stay on top of this. You are truly feedtacoma's ace-in-the-hole. We can't lose when your skills are put to use. Thanks.

by Erik on 5/19/2011 @ 11:49am
Update from the Tacoma Daily Index:

RR and Olivia meet for the first time.

I. R. R. Anderson, Tacoma political cartoonist

Hello, I'm R. R. Anderson operating out of Central Tacoma neighborhood area.

First off, thank you for your courage. Thank you for taking this momentous step. I had the pleasure of reading Lewis Lamb's [eds. note: should be Kamb's] muckraker column in The News Tribune where he replied, Ms. Luppens [eds. note: should be Lippens], she was shocked and disappointed. Well, we, the free people of the City of Destiny, have been shocked and disappointed since 2007. We have waited a decade for this industrial blight complex to clean up their act. Since 2007, Clear Channel has racked up over $32 million in fines for their out-of-compliance billboards. If you haven't been counting, we have been counting. You can see that on FeedTacoma.com ( www.feedtacoma.com/forum/tacoma-developm... ).

I ran into [News Tribune columnist] Peter Callaghan the other day when I was brushing my teeth in The News Tribune rest room and I asked him point blank, "Will the council fold on this issue?" And he said -- he didn't have to think -- he said, "Yes." I refuse to believe in that cynical point of view. I think we elected a strong council of urban designers, people who care about the community. I refuse to be sucked into that nihilist view of The News Tribune. Peter said that they [would] just fold [and] that [Tacoma City Councilmember Jake] Fey would rub his chin profusely before folding. But you can't believe Callaghan because he voted for [Pierce County Assessor Dale] Washam. I'm an optimist.

The billboards are out of context. Right now, if you go to It's Greek To Me, you will see a giant new billboard saying go see the poop exhibit. I don't know if you have eaten a falafel and thought about zoo animal poop, but it is not conducive to an economic strategy for profit. Furthermore, this poop billboard is in front of a church -- a historical church -- and that deeply offends my Christian value, faith that I hold deeply in my heart.

So, poop to you.

Boycott the [Weekly V]olcano. And, oh, yeah, constitutions matter. Every single billboard in Tacoma said 'Constitutions Matter.' Constitutions matter. I suggest Constitutions Matter 2.0. You can use Microsoft comic sans fonts instead of the font you used really urgently because you guys are a joke and go back to your luxury condo in Seattle.

Thank you and please stay civil everyone.

OK. I think that's everything. [Digital billboards] are not green, they are energy vampires. Thank you. God Bless. Good night. Do your patriotic duty as Americans and constitutions matter.

II. Olivia Lippens, president of Clear Channel Outdoor

I'm the president of Clear Channel Outdoor. I would like to address ordinance 27982 regarding the moratorium on billboards this evening. I'm here specifically to express how puzzled I am and somewhat shocked I am of the city's recent move for a moratorium.

Clear Channel has been working in good faith with the city for over nine months under the settlement agreement that the city council unanimously adopted over a year ago. But the language of this moratorium clearly states it's designed to preserve the status quo, and yet the status quo is the very situation that makes litigation unavoidable. The status quo is what prompted the council to adopt amortization. The status quo is what led Clear Channel to be forced to file a lawsuit to defend our permitted and constitutional rights. Therefore, a move to adopt a moratorium would be a clear signal to us that the city no longer wants to abide by the settlement agreement they signed, but rather return to positions that brought us to the litigation to begin with.

Back in 1997, when the city passed an unconstitutional ordinance to force the removal of signs in the City of Tacoma, after several years of trying to work with the city on alternative solutions, we were forced in 2007 to file a lawsuit to protect our rights of both the landlords and Clear Channel. The city approached Clear Channel in 2009 to begin settlement talks when the city realized it was likely not to prevail in the litigation, and we've worked long and hard with the city negotiating in good faith for several years to find a win-win alternative.

But now I have to be honest. We feel a little bit blind-sided by this call for a moratorium that sends the signal that the city no longer wants to honor the settlement agreement it signed and agreed to nearly a year ago.

Clear Channel has agreed for an extension in time from January 2011 to August 2011 to allow the city time to fulfill their part of the settlement agreement. Now in a move that comes as a surprise to us, the city appears to be changing course, and if the moratorium is adopted will send a clear message that the city has reversed itself on that very settlement. The moratorium will take this whole process back to square one and after five years of hard work, it seems like a really drastic move and one that's entirely counterproductive for parties that have been at the table discussing this.

In addition, the moratorium would prevent Clear Channel from exercising their property rights with the 169 permits we currently hold for re-location and construction of signs. In essence, the city would be asserting a taking over these privately owned assets by instituting this moratorium. It's also unclear to me how we could continue to conduct routine maintenance on existing lines that are required by regulatory bodies like OSHA under this proposed moratorium.

Clear Channel has demonstrated time and again our willingness to negotiate in good faith with the city, and we believed we had reached a solution -- the settlement agreement -- that both dramatically reduces the number and square footage of signs within the city with an initial reduction of over 35,000 square feet of signage. Let me repeat that. With an initial reduction. Just from within the beginning of the settlement agreement, an initial reduction of over 35,000 square feet of signage in the city. That's 178 sign faces with the initial outlay of removals provided within the settlement agreement, which seems to strike right at the core of what the city's intent was from the beginning of adopting amortization, which was to reduce the number of signs within the city drastically. So the signs and permits planned for removal, I would like to also underscore, represents 40 percent of the inventory targeted by the city from this initial process that would be removed, that's a 40 percent reduction. I'd like you also to keep in mind that the signs that Clear Channel and its predecessor companies, we have been a part of the Tacoma landscape for over a hundred years. Billboards have been a part of this city for over a century and they have supported local businesses. They have supported local non-profits.

Our signs in Tacoma were legally permitted by the city and they were constructed in accordance with those permits. We do bay [Business and Occupation] taxes to the city, I would like to clarify that, and we also pay for permitting fees as a local business. It's also important to underscore that 85 percent of the advertisers that use our Tacoma billboards are purchased locally by businesses and non-profits that depend on billboard advertising to promote heir businesses or their cause. This has gone on for decades. I know you are aware that there have been many business land owners and non-profits that have reached out to you. In ending, the settlement agreement is the best and only way to mitigate the problems presented by the status quo. There is no benefit in prolonging this any more.

www.tacomadailyindex.com/portals-code/li...


by NineInchNachos on 5/19/2011 @ 1:20pm
we made it in the tacoma weekly as well !

by Jesse on 5/19/2011 @ 4:32pm
Olivia is acting as though she's in the drivers seat here and has full power to break the law at any degree she sees fit. The billboards are currently illegal, they are scofflaws about it, and want to make another negotiated agreement on something that is illegal? Hmm.

It's like a cocaine and heroin dealer negotiating on the street corner telling a cop he'll only sell cocaine (and not heroin) from now on if the cops leave him alone and go about his business forever.

by NineInchNachos on 5/19/2011 @ 4:52pm
check it out www.tacomaweekly.com/news/politics/counc...

by Erik on 5/19/2011 @ 5:00pm
Absolutely amazing that these massive blight on blight walls are allowed to obliterate the landscape when Tacoma residents would be harangued and fined for any debris in their yard under the city's Safe and Clean ordinance:



Here are the rules for normal Tacomans:

cityoftacoma.org/Page.aspx?hid=12744

by Jesse on 5/19/2011 @ 5:01pm
Mr. Smith President of Hookers on Corners Outdoors wants to bring in less hookers but the ones he will bring in now are super porn stars who are actually certifiably proven to be home-wreckers!!

Here's his latest letter to city council:

"Mr. Smith President of Hookers on Corners Outdoors:

I'm the president of Hookers on Corners Outdoor. I would like to address ordinance 6969-6 regarding the moratorium on street-walking this evening. I'm here specifically to express how puzzled I am and somewhat shocked I am of the city's recent move for a moratorium.

Hookers on Corners Outdoors has been working in good faith with the city for over nine months under the settlement agreement that the city council unanimously adopted over a year ago. But the language of this moratorium clearly states it's designed to preserve the status quo, and yet the status quo is the very situation that makes litigation unavoidable. The status quo is what prompted the council to adopt brothel reduction. The status quo is what led Hookers on Corners Outdoors to be forced to file a lawsuit to defend our street corners and constitutional rights. Therefore, a move to adopt a moratorium would be a clear signal to us that the city no longer wants to abide by the settlement agreement they signed, but rather return to positions that brought us to the litigation to begin with.

Back in 1997, when the city passed an unconstitutional ordinance to force the removal of brothels in the City of Tacoma, after several years of trying to work with the city on alternative solutions, we were forced in 2007 to file a lawsuit to protect our rights of both the pimps and Hookers on Corners Outdoors. The city approached Hookers in 2009 to begin settlement talks when the city realized it was likely not to prevail in the litigation, and we've worked long and hard with the city negotiating in good faith for several years to find a win-win alternative.

But now I have to be honest. We feel a little bit blind-sided by this call for a moratorium that sends the signal that the city no longer wants to honor the settlement agreement it signed and agreed to nearly a year ago.

Hookers on Corners Outdoors has agreed for an extension in time from January 2011 to August 2011 to allow the city time to fulfill their part of the settlement agreement. Now in a move that comes as a surprise to us, the city appears to be changing course, and if the moratorium is adopted will send a clear message that the city has reversed itself on that very settlement. The moratorium will take this whole process back to square one and after five years of hard work, it seems like a really drastic move and one that's entirely counterproductive for parties that have been at the table discussing this.

In addition, the moratorium would prevent Hookers on Corners Outdoors from exercising their rights with the brothel permits from the wild west we currently hold for re-location of our prostitutes. In essence, the city would be asserting a taking over these privately owned assets by instituting this moratorium. It's also unclear to me how we could continue to conduct routine STD testing on existing ladies that are required by regulatory bodies like Wild West Law (WWL) under this proposed moratorium.

Hookers on Corners Outdoors has demonstrated time and again our willingness to negotiate in good faith with the city, and we believed we had reached a solution -- the settlement agreement -- that both dramatically reduces the prostitutes and brothels within the city with an initial reduction of over 1/2 of our brothels. Let me repeat that. With an initial reduction. Just from within the beginning of the settlement agreement, an initial reduction of over 1/2 of our brothels. That's 178 hookers with the initial outlay of removals provided within the settlement agreement, which seems to strike right at the core of what the city's intent was from the beginning of adopting the agreement, which was to reduce the number of prostitutes within the city drastically. So the prostitutes and brothels planned for removal, I would like to also underscore, represents 1/2 of the prostitutes targeted by the city from this initial process that would be removed, that's a 50 percent reduction. I'd like you also to keep in mind that Hookers on Corners Outdoors and its predecessor companies, we have been a part of the Tacoma landscape for over a hundred years. Prostitutes have been a part of this city for over a century and they have invigorated local Johns. They have invigorated local sailors."

And to imagine the city was negotiating with Hookers on Corners Outdoors! Don't they know hookers were outlawed after the wild west was won? Geez... I can't even believe they'd negotiate with Hookers on Corners Outdoor in the first place!!

by fredo on 5/19/2011 @ 5:13pm
that's the spirit jesse!

by Erik on 5/19/2011 @ 6:33pm
Here is the "master list" of non-conforming billboards:

cnc-tacoma.com/images/documents/billboar...

Remove these non-conforming billboards already!!!

They were supposed to be removed in 2007.

by fredo on 5/19/2011 @ 7:27pm
Thats a wonderful spreadsheet erik!

I noticed there is no column showing the Clear Channel registration numbers. I also noticed that each line only shows 1 non-conforming designation, when in fact some of the signs may violate numerous provisions of the code.

by Erik on 5/19/2011 @ 10:17pm
@ Fredo; Thus, the non-conforming billboard list is what was the basis for the fine counter.

I think Kevin Freitas multiplied the number of non-conforming billboards by the penalty specified for each violation and hen set his counter:

www.feedtacoma.com/forum/tacoma-developm...

From the post, you can see how everyone was dismayed. Even RR thought we had lost:

RR

this art project has an expiration date and I find that ultra-attractive.

I call the time of death 5:25 pm July 27, 2010

The End.

jenyum:

No... from the sound of it we ended up giving Clear Channel something instead? Or rather, the people of the East side and the South side did, they just don't know it yet.
_____________

It literally took months for everyone to figure out that it was not over as cities cannot legally settle litigation with code changes.

by jenyum on 5/19/2011 @ 11:20pm
The Google Map of non-conforming billboards is done. Here is a screenshot:



Somewhere, underneath all those billboards, lies a city.

Link to the map:
maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&ms...

by Erik on 5/19/2011 @ 11:52pm
Congratulations Jen!

Awesome map!!