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
After a lot of public hearings and negotiations some rules were adopted and approved.
Official Poster Rules
Final City Ordinance
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.
I agree that the poster buildup two inches thick is unattractive and just kind of gross, but I thought the time during the no-postering law were dark days for Seattle. The early 90s were such an active time for music in Seattle, and that law felt like a big screw you to people in their teens and 20s. I’m in my 40s now, but Seattle still has a vibrant music scene, and postering can be a creative and cheap way to advertise. I do think you’re right to ask them to keep to the rules about single layers and timely removal, though.
Poles full of posters should not be considered a blight on a par with broken windows (yes, I know the theory referred to). Vibrant neighborhoods attract that level of postering; poster build-up is not a sign of decline.
That being said, putting up posters is free speech, taking down outdated posters is public service. Feel free to do both.
Our business is on Stone Way. I routinely take down posters on the poles in front of our office once it’s clear the event has passed. Voila! Clean on our corner! If everyone would do the same on their own corners, imagine how great our community would look!
There are much larger problems in the neighborhood than posters. Posters ARE a form of expression and a great way to hear about upcoming bands and acts that thankfully still come here. I’ve been a Wallyhood reader for years but have never posted a comment. The ridiculousness of this article changed that today. Relax.
I’m generally pro-poster, too, Jessica, for the same reasons you are. However, take a look at that photo I snapped on 45th Street (I just added it to this article) as an example of what Nancy is talking about. I think we’re both both responsible-postering. But there’s nothing good for the neighborhood or the arts when THAT happens.
I’d take a light pole filled with posters over the vagrant camp at the 50th street/5th avenue offramp any day. My Realtor has yet to tell me someone has passed on buying my house because of posters, but I’ve had two people tell him specifically that the addicts at the offramp scared them off. Sigh. Maybe Mike O’Brien will buy my house!
Thanks for the interesting background information!
unlike the last opinion piece posted here, this reads more like a snarky rant against a personal peeve. all the good info that no doubt required a fair bit of research gets lost in the tone of the piece. at best, it belongs on the forums page, not the main page here.
as for the subject of the rant; anyone who is “driven crazy” by something as insignificant as posters on poles clearly doesn’t have any actual problems. or, perhaps, so many problems that one poster-covered pole tips them over the threshold into crazytown. either way, i’m not sure it warrants broadcasting as an article on a public, community blog. better kept as a personal facebook rant or something. imho.
So it’s OK for you to share your opinions but not others. Got it. And it’s not some “public, community blog” in the socialist collective sense. It belongs to a private individual who invites others to share on HIS blog. You’re the guest. Try to behave like one.
just like you did, i posted my opinion in the comments section, not as a main page article. if i’m not behaving properly, then neither are you, nor any other commenters here.
Tone police. I’m watching you. You look like trouble.
Come on. Both of you, cut it out.
Runyararo – maybe you could have taken a breather before writing next time. I know I have to with some of these posts. 🙂
Marie of.. – there is a more effective way to ask a community member to think about their tone. And threatening to use surveillance to correct their social behavior is a little odd, even as a joke.
My top secret surveillance tool is called My Eyeballs Reading This Blog. And do share your more effective way because if it can keep runyararo from judging the OP personally as s/he did, I am all for using it.
well, I can post now! The bug re passwords is fixed. I recall a few posters whose vitriol went unchecked. Here we go again. No point in recreating Wallyhood if it continues to harbor invectiveness.
i’m concerned to see this little conversation getting out of hand. please don’t make assumptions about my intentions. it would do us all good to remember that everyone here comes from a different place, and people may communicate in different ways.
please understand that i did not intend any personal attack against the OP or anyone else. in my personal experience, the “people who worry about xyz must not have actual problems” thing is a figure of speech. it was taken as a personal attack, and for that i apologize to the OP.
as for the rest, i believe any blog owner would welcome feedback from readers about what types of articles they’re interested in. it isn’t censorship; it’s market research. my critique was a legitimate one, supported by the fact that many others gave the same critique. there was so much really good information and research into laws and history here; it is a real shame to see it shrouded in sarcasm and hyperbole. but then, that was my perception. maybe not the OP’s intention.
i do feel that columnists are held to a slightly higher standard of journalistic integrity than commenters. if i had it to do over again, i would simply ask the OP an open-ended question: “Why do the poster-covered poles bother you as much as they do?”
i agree that verbal abuse on this site has gotten out of hand at times (though nowhere near the levels of possibility on our dear interwebs). i have never posted invective, and never will.
The penalties for postering private property should be greatly increased in my opinion. These slimy guerrilla marketing companies such as Poster Giant are making money by making our cities look trashy, and their client companies they are promoting are equally to blame for financing guerrilla marketing tactics. For example, google this article on the PhinneyWood blog. “Guerrilla marketing company pastes Specialized bike ads over murals painted on Greenwood businesses damaged in gas explosion”. It’s outrageous. If anyone knows any lawyers perhaps there should be a class action lawsuit against these companies.
I haven’t seen any posters on private property in Wallingford, have you?
Wallingford is, sadly, frequently referred to as a nimby neighborhood that pretends to do social justice work. I try to find ways to counter this label by celebrating and informing others the ways the community is successful in this work. I am disappointed to say that this is the type of stuff i would hide from our critics as it help confirm their ideas about us. And sometimes mine.
Like others have said, there are so many more important issues to focus on. Calling almost anything blight in Wallingford is an inappropriate exaggeration and misapplying the broken windows theory doesn’t help – it’s a theory that has received criticism for its racialized and classist undertones.
Wallingford blog: more stuff about HALA, Wallingford history, big developments in the neighborhood, philanthropic endeavors, etc.
Less about bagged dog poop in people’s garbage cans and posters on poles! (I’m so worried the next post will be the surveillance of a homeless guy walking around the neighborhood with theories of his motivations).
please, dear neighbor, explain why you told me to “cut it out,” when i said essentially the same thing you did?
[and i’m sorry to say, the surveillance post has already happened – see the one with the photo of the basketball thief.] 🙁
The cut it out was about the feuding. I’m sorry that it came across as aggressive.
I do think how we frame issues is important and I encourage you (and myself) to think about how we want to engage people. I’m always looking at my wording to see if I am addressing the issue or if I’m focusing on the character of the person. I’m not always successful but I’ll continue to encourage both of us to examine our tone.
Oh my. ::face Palm:: ‘ll take your word on the basketball theif post. 🙁
Fair enough; thanks for the reminder. 🙂
Note that the blog is now (and always) accepting pieces written by people from the neighborhood. Want to see more articles and coverage of topics you care about? Write them!
? will do!
We’ve had plenty of stuff about HALA. We have also had plenty about dog poop, but I hope no one will feel pressured into some kind of politically correct prior censorship for fear that outsiders will think of our neighborhood. Wallingford is what it is. A little too salty for you? Tough! I don’t think any neighborhood is more committed to social justice, overall, but the broad range of views here on these matters is what makes Wallingford great.
donn, can you elaborate on your statement, with examples showing how Wallingford as a neighborhood is more committed to social justice than any other neighborhood in Seattle? genuinely interested.
He didn’t say that. He said he didn’t think any neighborhood was more committed. That could mean every neighborhood is equally committed, not that one is above the others. I agree with Donn. I think the people of Wallingford have big hearts and want to see the issues facing our city resolved fairly for all. We elect social justice-oriented representatives and we have regular social justice voices on this blog and others. It doesn’t feel like living in Broadmoor to me.
Thank you. I also believe it mostly comes down to how we individually live in the real world, which in the long term is going to be where the action is. Issues often turn out to be political charades that distract the masses while the plutocrats divide the loot.
I found this article on the subject interesting.
According to this, four neighborhoods are more progressive than Wallingford, based on voting records alone. I’m not convinced this is an adequate measure of “commitment to social justice,” but it is an interesting read.
I’m sorry, is your link about postering? Back on topic, folks!
Again–rather than spend time calling around to have someone else take care of the problem, why not just take outdated posters off the poles and dispose of said posters? I’ve done that, just like Jeffrey on Stone Way. It’s easy for most people (understandable if you physically can’t do so). Less talk, more fixing!
Interesting information on a topic that is overlooked generally!
I agree it is visual pollution. I watched one of my neighbors pollute every pole within two miles looking for her cat. When she posted online that it had been returned, she did not go out and take down the posters which were anchored with two inch tape wrapped around the poles. So just like I pick up litter every day I go out (one bag because the meth heads make it utterly endless with the fast food, needles, etc.) I bring an exacto and cut down the tape and the old dead ads and throw them away. You can’t stop free speech but you can remove it.
I think heroin users are your needle source, but yes, I suppose you can shoot meth, too. What a brave new world we live in! Also, do you take down lost cat and dog signs? What if they’d just been put up? And what you call “polluting a pole” (now there’s a phrase), others might call desperately seeking a beloved pet. That said, I’m right there with you if she found the kitty, she should take down the signs.