Federation Editor's note:
A reader writes: Re: ZONING CODE "UPDATE" - Illuminated Signs on Buildings
I see several problems with the proposal to relax the City Code regulating illuminated signs on buildings. For openers it would be of benefit only to large firms and landlords. Small businesses would be put at a competitive disadvantage. That is both unfair and misguided since small to midsize retail businesses are already having a hard time making a go of it, especially in downtown Seattle. What is the justification for favoring the big guys? Meanwhile the City's argument that such signs help people find their way around town is hard to take seriously. The sign would be so high up nobody walking or driving nearby would be able to see it from street level. Nor could it be seriously argued the building is hard to find. In fact it is one of the most visible and prominent buildings in the city, not that Russell Investments needs the advertising. Last I checked their clients are primarily other investment firms, large trusts, and mutual fund companies, very few of which are even located in Seattle. I don't know if they have any walk-up retail customers. If that weren't enough, the sign would be most visible at night when the building isn't even open.
This looks like just another sweetheart deal where City Hall does a favor for a large company. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Russell Investment moved to Seattle, but they sure don't need special treatment from the City. They already got a steal when they bought the building for a fraction of what WAMU paid for it. The City ought to think about what other tall buildings will be turned into free advertising if this ordinance goes through. If City Hall wants to help the downtown landlords and developers the way to do it is through efficient public services down at street level. Allowing advertising on the top of highrises won't do anything to fill vacant buildings, but better police and social services might make downtown a little more attractive to the small retailers and service businesses that are struggling.
By the way, before the City further relaxes the sign ordinance they ought to take a look at what happened after they allowed bright moving-image signs. If you want to see one take a look at the large sign on First Ave S. just south of the Stadiums. You can't miss it, its attached to a strip club and runs provocative ads 24 hours per day. Yup, just what the city needed to improve its family-friendly image and bring in neighborhood retail. Whoever is coming up with these changes to the sign ordinance must live in some other neighborhood, or maybe they live in a suburban city that protects neighborhood interests by carefully regulating illuminated signs. The proposed change for Russell Investment is unnecessary and is another step down a slippery slope. Allowing big illuminated advertising on buildings is not the answer to any of Seattle's problems.