Monday, December 6, 2010

Federation letter re Giant illuminated Signs on Buildings


December 6, 2010 

Councilmember Richard Conlin, Chair, Regional Development and Sustainability Committee  
Members of the City Council 
Mayor Michael McGinn 
600 Fourth Avenue  
Seattle, Washington   98124-4749 

Subject:  Amendment to Sign Code to Allow Russell Investments Sign 

Dear Councilmember Conlin, Members of the City Council and Mayor McGinn:                 

The Federation strongly objects to modifying Seattle’s sign code in order to allow Russell Investments to place its name and corporate logo on top of the former WAMU Center.  At our November 18th meeting, Federation members voted unanimously to oppose these changes to the sign code. 

Seattle has a long history of keeping advertising and signage from its downtown towers and 
this has resulted in a world renowned skyline recognizable for its striking architecture in a setting of natural beauty.  What limited signage that is found downtown above 65 feet is either a relic from a period before the code addressed this issue, or has been allowed for purposes of public benefit and wayfinding. 

The proposed Russell Investments sign is purely for the purpose of advertising and self-promotion which is not in the broader public interest, and we are concerned that it will lead to additional signage requests and therefore the further degradation of our cherished skyline.  
And if it is argued that no further signs are contemplated or allowed, we will be left with a single corporate name branding our city’s image.  Either scenario is unacceptable. 

We have been told that there is an argument being made that allowing this change will be good for attracting new businesses to Seattle, that it will help solve vacancy issues downtown, and it will show that Seattle is “open for business”.  This is a specious argument, and one that ignores the greater issues of our national recession and its impacts on our city.  While we welcome the arrival of Russell Investments to Seattle, allowing them to place their sign on our skyline will do nothing to improve the general business climate.  In fact, such promises to change our city’s skyline without public discussion and contrary to our Comprehensive Plan only cheapen our city’s image by indicating our public realm is for sale or can be had for the asking. 

It should be understood by all that signs above 65 feet are not directed at pedestrians and vehicles on “the street” to aid in location and promotion, and are clearly meant to reach the “eyes” of the wider area for the purposes of advertising.  We strongly encourage that any consideration of advertising signs above 65 feet be made as part of a wider public discussion of how advertising signage is used in our city.  Our sign code is antiquated in a number of ways, this issue being one. 

We all want a vibrant economy and a beautiful, picturesque city.  Corporate advertising on our 
buildings achieves neither. 

We urge that Council and the Mayor reconsider taking further action on this change and instead seek a more thorough and public process to address the issues that this proposal has brought to light. 

Thank you for considering the views of the Seattle Community Council Federation.  We look forward to hearing back from you soon. 


Jeannie Hale, President 
3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE 
Seattle, Washington  98105 
206-525-5135 / fax 206-525-9631 

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