I really hope this doesn’t come across as either too pro-advertising or in any way pro-distracted driving. But I kind of dig the gigantic ads on the side of buildings that the city of Seattle might crack down on.
After years of debate over how to regulate (or ban) wall signs on the sides of buildings that advertise products or services that aren’t available in the building where they’re advertised, the city council’s Housing Affordability, Human Services, and Economic Resiliency committee met this morning to talk specifics.
Dozens of opponents of the proposal (from Vulcan to Total Outdoor Advertising to the Mariners) waited patiently while the committee slogged through the details, but they were probably encouraged to hear council member Bruce Harrell preemptively parroting nearly all of their points. The opponents argued that giant signs promote civic pride, are easier for drivers to read, and are a way for small businesses to supplement their meager incomes.
I like wandering around the city, and one of my favorite thing is when you see some faded paint from an ad that was on an old building a long time ago. Trying to figure out from the cost of whatever painted on the brick or the language used what time frame it might have been.
This isn’t quite that, of course. It’s for businesses that aren’t in the building that’s advertised. And it’s generally draped over the walls or plastered on instead of being painted. So perhaps future walkers won’t have the same thing. But it has been going on for a long time. Anyway, they’re on walls — often times boring walls — so they aren’t taking any views away.
And while these are big for drivers, they are in high pedestrian traffic areas. Most buildings tall enough for that to be an issue are in areas with high pedestrian traffic. So you can see plenty of them on a bike or on your feet, and that’s fine.
Really, also, if the goal is to stop distracted driving, this rule doesn’t make a lot of sense:
Currently, the city bans “off-premises” wall signs on the sides of buildings; it does allow businesses to advertise products or services they actually provide (those are known as “on-premises” signs). So if you’re Jimmy John’s (to give an example from SoDo) and you want to put a huge Jimmy John’s sign on your outside wall to attract customers, go for it. But if Subway wants to buy an ad on your wall, that’s against the rules.
Is an ad for a store in the building less distracting than an ad for a store somewhere else? I think they’re exactly as distracting. But as long as they aren’t animated, reflective, 3D, or whatever, I think most drivers will be sensible enough to ignore them.