Making Nice With Clear Channel On the Billboard Issue

In an ongoing effort to make nice with Clear Channel over the media company's refusal to remove its billboards that don't conform with Tacoma code, the City is considering further modifications to that code. A public hearing on the proposed modifications is scheduled for next week.

The proposed changes are in part a result of the work of the Billboard Community Working Group - a group made up of community stakeholders, as well as representatives from the billboard company. The group produced recommendations on some aspects of billboard regulation in Tacoma, and others were filled in by the Planning Commission and City staff.

The City's Billboard Regulations page notes that "Billboard regulations have been a highly contentious issue in Tacoma for decades." That's not overstating it. Currently only three of the 311 existing billlboard faces in Tacoma conform with city code. The page also explains the current thinking on resolving the problem. 

The main objective is to continue to reduce the number of billboards in the City and move billboards which adversely impact neighborhoods, protected districts and land uses to more acceptable areas.  This process is part of an effort to successfully end a legal “standstill” agreement between the City of Tacoma and Clear Channel Outdoor (CCO) regarding the City’s efforts to enforce its billboard regulations.  

The changes proposed to address this situation are listed on the hearing announcement as follows:

  1. Provides for relocation credits which emphasize removal of pole-mounted billboard signs in favor of billboard wall signs.
  2. Opens the following additional zones to billboard wall signs: DCC, DMU, WR, PDB, UCX, CCX, CIX, and NCX.
  3. Allows billboard wall signs over 300 square feet with staff review.
  4. Increases height limit to 35 feet in areas over 500 feet from areas not permitting billboards.
  5. Reduces required distance between both pole mounted and wall mounted billboards.
  6. Reduces buffer distance from no-billboard zones and sensitive uses (such as schools, parks, historic properties) from 500 feet to 250 feet.
  7. Reduces design standards while retaining prohibition of poles signs that are off-set, over-cantilevered, extend over buildings, and have more than one face per side of the billboard.
  8. Requires efficient lighting and no illumination between midnight and 5 am.
  9. Requires stricter enforcement for signs with graffiti.
  10. Retains amortization as a means to remove nonconforming billboards.

The public hearing on propoed change to the billboard code by the Planning Commission is scheduled for Wednesday, October 7 at 5 p.m.

This is the latest round in an ongoing saga between the two entities that has now lasted for more than a decade. It's an effort to placate a company known for digging in its heels and dragging municipalities through years of legal battles. The City of Tacoma has already been through a few rounds of such battles, and more are sure to follow if it doesn't give in, at least somewhat, to Clear Channel. That said, we don't know if even these concessions would make the media company happy. 

Would you like to see Tacoma give these concessions a try? Or do you want to see the legal battle to enforce billboard regulations continue?

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Funny.  What a waste.  Without enforcing anything, Clear Channel can do what they want.  Why would they do anything different if there’s no consequences for their current actions?  As a scoff law, they’re making a fortune.
Either enforce what’s on the books now or stop this insanity.  I feel sorry for the city staff assigned to this.

September 28, 2015 at 8:11 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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All advertising should be banned, tv, radio, billboards, magazines. it is mind control!

September 29, 2015 at 11:09 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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The driving force in this was a decision that we the citizens of Tacoma control the viewscape of our own city. 
To do that, the city changed the building codes, which put CC’s boards in non-compliance.  To say that nearly all of CC’s billboards are in violation of city code is a little misleading since it appears to say that CC is responsible for this.  But the reality is that they were in compliance with the code until the City changed it.
However, in attempting to leverage CC into removing their billboards, the city ran into the cold hard reality that CC has way more money and lawyers than we do.  Hence the compromise.

September 30, 2015 at 8:05 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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But the message sent to big business becomes that they can do literally anything they want if their pockets are deep enough and they’re willing to spend on enough attorneys.  That became very clear in this process.  Shouldn’t the state or county get involved in such instances?  I would hope so but i guess not… all this while the average Joe can be fined for stapling a poster on a power pole…

October 1, 2015 at 11:59 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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I agree with you. Although I would argue that this message was long ago sent to big business, and what we see here is nothing new.

Our legal system (through rulings from Supreme Court judges appointed by presidents beholden to corporate interests) has declared that corporations are people and that money is speech.

He who had the deepest pockets has the most rights.

October 2, 2015 at 8:35 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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As if we needed more evidence of the City Council’s worthlessness.

September 30, 2015 at 10:31 pm / Reply / Quote and reply

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Too many concessions.  Enforce what is on the books and if Clear Channel won’t comply, fight it out in court.

October 1, 2015 at 7:50 am / Reply / Quote and reply

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