I don’t know about you, but the sight of deteriorating posters on the telephone and public utility poles in Wallingford drives me crazy. One man’s advertising is our neighborhood’s blight. I just think of the broken window theory every time I see the old posters hanging from poles. I’ve even taken the time to go out and peel off the 1-2″ thick layer of posters with my kids. They thought it was fun.
At a recent Wallingford Chamber of Commerce meeting held at Tutta Bella last week, our city councilman, Rob Johnson was there to answer and I was chomping at the bit to ask about the practice of postering on telephone poles. Is it legal or not? Rob Johnson referred me to the City Transportation department because they manage the light poles and street signs in Seattle.
It’s legal and putting up posters falls within the realm of “Freedom of Speech.”
Here’s the back story; “the City of Seattle adopted legislation in 1994 that, among other things, prohibited anyone from affixing any handbill, sign, or poster to any utility poles, lamp poles, and traffic control devices. In August 2002, the Washington State Court of Appeals determined that these parts of Seattle’s “poster ban” violated the Washington State Constitution. However, the Court found that the City could regulate the time, place, and manner of temporary signs.” Read here
Ultimately, some operational “Do’s and Don’ts” were written and posted on the City of Seattle Department of Transportation webpage and you can read them here.
Basic poster etiquette:
- Posters can be hung without a permit – no permit fees are required.
- Posters may be displayed for 30 days or until the date of any event advertised,
- The poster has a 10-day grace period to remove the posters before the City can charge costs for removal.
- The person or organization placing the signs is responsible for removing the signs;
- The City encourages self-policing and removal of expired posters so that City forces can be used on other priorities.
- Do not hang posters on “Stop” or “Yield” sign posts or on the backs of those signs.
- Do not hang posters on structures such as trees, signal control boxes, street furniture, bus shelters, bicycle racks, or art.
- Posters over posters are not allowed.
- Posters can be only one layer thick. This avoids build-up of posters.
- Don’t use glue or nails or staples larger than 3/8 inch and 0.050 gauge to hang posters.
- Don’t hang your posters higher than 7 feet above the ground.
- Don’t leave your posters up beyond their expiration date and grace period.
Seattle Department of Transportation says, “These rules are needed for safety and to help manage visual blight by ensuring that the outdated, torn, and damaged signs that constitute litter do not accumulate.”
So, what can we do to help manage the blight? Exercise your Freedom of Speech rights.
Poster Giant is one of the one of the local companies that puts up posters in our neighborhood, so I called and told them that the posters were building up and looking terrible. The representative thanked me for alerting them to the problem, and stated that he would send in a team to do a “heavy swag” in the neighborhood; that’s poster lingo for removal of heavy buildup.
Call the office of Annual Permits, Street Use, Seattle Department of Transportation at (206) 684-5267 or e-mail at [email protected] and let them know about the problem too. I left a really long three minute message before the machine cut me off.
I know they’ll enjoy hearing that message, but “Hey, I’m just exercising my Freedom of Speech rights.