Schedule set for vote on Seattle skyscraper signs

Dec 20, 2010

A controversial proposal that would allow major employers in Seattle to put signs at the tops of their skyscrapers will be decided in March.  City Council President Richard Conlin says he delayed the vote to give the city time to respond to a number of concerns.

Russell Investments requested the change, to help them re-brand their tower, which is the former home of Washington Mutual Bank.  The company moved to their new 2nd Avenue address from Tacoma this fall.

At a recent public hearing on the proposed signage, opponents outnumbered supporters by at least 4 to 1.  27 professors of architecture from the University of Washington submitted a letter outlining their concerns.  They fear a proliferation of corporate logos would clutter the skyline and give away a valuable asset to special interests. 

City Council President Richard Conlin says the ordinance would only allow employers with 200,000 square feet in one building to hang the signs.  Right now, only six or seven companies fit that profile.


"We are pretty careful about signs in Seattle," Conlin says. "We generally don't allow signs above 65 feet on a building.  But we do allow them on hotels and on things like the Harborview  Medical Center.  And so this would be a slight expansion of that opportunity." 

The signs would be limited in size and could only contain company names.  Letters could not be more than ten feet tall.  Only soft white back-lighting would be allowed.  Conlin says they wouldn't be noticeable in iconic images of the Seattle Skyline.  But he says the council recognizes people are rightfully concerned about protecting it.

"And we really want to make sure that if this is done, it's done in a way that meets those expectations and that we aren't opening a door for something that would be much more commercial."

Seattle has a long history of keeping corporate advertising to a minimum.  For example, billboards have been banned since the early 1960s.  Only those that were grandfathered in at that time are now allowed.