Tacoma Urbanist

May. 17, 2011 at 12:01am

Tacoma Planning Commission "Emphatically Urges the Council to Say No to Digital Billboards"

. .

After considering the matter at length, reading studies in the matter and receiving extensive public comment (almost exclusively against digital billboards), the Tacoma Planning Commission took a strong stance against the threat of digital billboards being forced into the City of Tacoma:

Here is the Tacoma Planning Commission letter to the Tacoma City Council (page 17): 

"[t]he Commission Emphatically Urges the Council to say no to digital billboards. Nearly 350 community members spoke against allowing this form of signage in our city.  We understand the Council's reluctance for prolonged litigation and the laudable goal of ultimately reducing visual blight from existing billboards by instituting an  exchange program, but the price to do so, as outlined in the settlement agreement, is too high."

"The departure from this policy...would not only eliminate the amoratization provision but would also allow for new billboards that are digital, larger, and in areas where they have long been prohibited--does not mesh with the Commission's understanding of Tacoma's long-term vision to become a more attractive and liveable city."

"We therefore are recommending that the sign code maintain the current limitations on traditional billboards and clearly prohibit digital billboards anywhere in the city."



Now it is the time for the Council to do the right thing and follow the advice of Tacoma residents & the Planning Commission for the betterment of the city and ban blightful digital billboards as many other cities have!

Make sure and attend the City City Council meeting tonight on the issue to support the billboard moratorium and/or contact the City Council members with your views.

When: Today: Tuesday, May 17 5:00pm - 8:00pm

Where: City Council Chambers 747 Market St Tacoma, WA

Yeah right.....

comments [19]  |  posted under tacoma


by Erik on 5/17/2011 @ 1:09am
From attorney Doug Shafer via the Tribune comments:

Doug Schafer says:
May 16, 2011 at 9:00 pm

It appears our city manager (hired in mid-2005) decided in mid-2007 not to oppose Clear Channel's lawsuit challenging our 1997 city council's billboard ordinance, but decided instead to negotiate and compromise with Clear Channel.

I am convinced, having carefully analyzed Clear Channel's court pleadings, that the city could have won that lawsuit quickly at little cost if it had engaged a capable lawyer to aggressively oppose Clear Channel.

I explain why in my memorandum dated 5-13-2011 posted at cnc-tacoma.com/proposed-electronic-billb... near the bottom of that webpage just above the summary of relevant court cases.

The city now should withdraw its settlement offer (that Clear Channel has never signed) and should begin enforcing our 1997 billboard ordinance. If Clear Channel files another lawsuit, the city should hire a capable lawyer to aggressively seek an early dismissal of that lawsuit.


by L.S.Erhardt on 5/17/2011 @ 1:24am
Either the city council is afraid, lazy or someone owns stock in Clear Channel. All three are unacceptable, and one might be criminal.

Either way, the council better stand up to this or there will be hell to pay at the ballot box.

by NineInchNachos on 5/17/2011 @ 1:31am
we're seeing crazy conservatives and crazy liberals in the TNT threads in unanimous agreement on billboards. The love of blue sky, the love of seeing stars at night is truly a force to unify all people.

by Erik on 5/17/2011 @ 1:36am
Here is another legal analysis from former Pierce County Prosecutor and former Tacoma City Councilmember John Ladenburg, Sr:

"Please oppose the video billboard proposal, it would be a terrible blight on Tacoma. This is a bad settlement and you should reject it and continue to fight to clean up Tacoma."


@RR: Yes. I have never ever seen Tacomans so universally lined up on one side of an issue.

Nor have I seen Tacoma threatened with so much blight in a single vote.

Tacoma Planning Commission members deserve a dozen golden City of Destiny medals for their valor in calling out the destructive proposals.

@Thorax: imposing 24/7 commercial spam producing digital billboard on Tacomans would be perceived to be unconscionable to a very large majority of Tacomans. Yes, a difficult political plank to run on.

by NineInchNachos on 5/17/2011 @ 1:43am
interesting exchange on bookface...

Mark Lindquist to Matt Driscoll:
RR keeps asking me - and everyone else - to boycott the Volcano. I finally responded, "RR, it would not be ethical for me to boycott a weekly alternative paper that featured a Mark Lindquist mask on their cover. What kind of ingrate would do that? Wyatt James would not.

Matt Driscoll to Mark Lindquist:
Yeah, he's pretty enraged (engorged?) about the Clear Channel situation. And I can sympathize (and even get behind) that. It's not like anyone at the Volcano wants Tacoma to be full of hideous digital billboards. I'm not exactly sure why he's directing so much wrath at us (other than the obvious: our insanely well-crafted "Get In on the Party" billboards are much easier to target than Humane Society, Click! or "Don't Beat Up Old People" billboards), but hopefully it works ... if the end goal is to make sure Clear Channel doesn't strong-arm Tacoma into a future full of flashing advertisements on every neighborhood corner. If the end goal is just to make our lives miserable or persuade us to drop our billboards it seems a little misguided, but that's just me. Best case scenario: the Tacoma City Council and the highly paid official they've hired on behalf of the people do their job and don't just wilt for fear of "expensive litigation." You stop getting messages from RR. And we can once again use Facebook again in peace. The desires of companies, no matter how massive, should not trump the desires of whole cities. Guess we'll see what happens ...

by cisserosmiley on 5/17/2011 @ 7:08am
wow, mr matt driscoll makes the volcano sound like the "tnt" 3 or 4 years ago...this was on the eve of the great "tnt" boycott that resulted in the near dismantling of McClatchy's tacoma operation. will the volcano survive? what will we all do without the weakling barf?

by Mofo from the Hood on 5/17/2011 @ 7:25am
"The desires of companies, no matter how massive, should not trump the desires of whole cities."---@1:43am

Why not? Maybe Clear Channel doesn't see this as a conflict of competing desires. For them it's about their business reason conflicting with the desire of a small group of Tacoman's. Reason vs. Desire. Economic Reality vs. Feelings.

by Jesse on 5/17/2011 @ 7:52am
"Here is another legal analysis from former Pierce County Prosecutor and former Tacoma City Councilmember John Ladenburg, Sr:"

"Please oppose the video billboard proposal, it would be a terrible blight on Tacoma. This is a bad settlement and you should reject it and continue to fight to clean up Tacoma." --- John Ladenberg

Ladenberg Law advertises on a digital billboard on the north(?) side of I-5 as you are leaving Fife toward King County. Saw it with my own eyes yesterday... and laughed.

by jenyum on 5/17/2011 @ 7:55am
How does one boycott a free paper anyway? What if one needs something in which to wrap one's fragile items?

by fredo on 5/17/2011 @ 8:00am
That youtube posted by the urbanist is quite remarkable. I hope everyone will take 6 minutes out of their day to listen to it.

by cisserosmiley on 5/17/2011 @ 8:10am
hey jesse...i am sure the ladenbergs will dismiss this indescretion as ancillary...and since it takes place on tribal boards it is O.K.???

by NineInchNachos on 5/17/2011 @ 8:11am
TNT link!

by Mofo from the Hood on 5/17/2011 @ 8:46am
Well I suppose the issue is this:

Are billboards educators or corruptors of society?

Do they clarify or mystify the mind of the viewer?

Maybe billboards are just man-made images, extensions of his authenticity, that provoke people to project their feelings---Billboards present Art now. Billboards for billboards sake. If that's the case then maybe billboards should be banned because they're emotionally exhausting and lead to mass confusion and skepticism about whether the true nature of reality can be known and how man should conduct himself.

by NineInchNachos on 5/17/2011 @ 8:49am
excellent youtube. Thanks Fredo.

by NineInchNachos on 5/17/2011 @ 8:54am
Beyond the Billboard is there a world you long to see?
Then join in the fight that will give you the right to be free!


by Nick on 5/17/2011 @ 9:43am
Heh, I'd love to see someone walk up to the podium tonight and just flip open their laptop and play that Kevin Fry video. I know its over 5 minutes, but not by much :-D

.... actually, NiN's link would probably do the trick in much less time.

by Nick on 5/17/2011 @ 9:45am
I caught a sneak preview of the video ClearChannel will be presenting to the council tonight:


by KevinFreitas on 5/17/2011 @ 12:12pm
Here's the note I just sent to the Mayor and City Council since I can't attend tonight's meeting due to illness:

I fully support the moratorium proposed in this ordinance and appreciate the thoughtful approach this body along with the Planning Commission is taking in considering the issue of billboards in Tacoma.

Overall this moratorium is less an action against billboards and more one for our city. Tacoma put in place reasonable guidelines related to billboards more than 14 years ago to which Clear Channel responded 4 years ago with a lawsuit. Unfortunately for them their non-compliance has, by my count, tallied their fine to over $32 million to date ( see www.feedtacoma.com/forum/tacoma-developm... ). Instead of working with our city they repeatedly threaten "costly litigation" as a scare tactic to urge us into settling. Precident brought forward by local legal opinions suggests that with hopefully minimal investment Tacoma can prevail in such a case and I, for one, support that investment.

Cities change rules and ordinances all the time that sometimes financially impact business owners but do so, again, as an investment in bettering our community. The 1997 ordinance is no different. Just because the impact of it will solely fall on Clear Channel is no fault but theirs for having a local monopoly on outdoor advertising. As I've said before, I'm sure many other media companies (CBS, Virgin, etc.) would be happy to earn money on legally place billboards in Tacoma if Clear Channel would rather not.

We owe little to a large company with it's own best interests in mind while we owe everything to the citizens who have been outspoken and nearly unanimous on this issue. Again, I completely support the courage of this Council in passing Ordinance No. 27982 and further encourage them to fight for the enforcement of the lawful 1997 ordinance.


Kevin A. Freitas

by Erik on 5/17/2011 @ 1:09pm
Great email Kevin.

Keep the fine meter alive!