Seattle Skyline Sign Legislation Proposed: Let the NIMBYism Commence

Depending on who you ask, the legislation change proposed to the Seattle City Council on Tuesday that would let certain skyscrapers put large signs on their tops is either a "minor change" or a "shocking give-away of our skyline."

The proposal, if passed, would initially only affect one company, Russell Investments at the former WaMu Center on Second Avenue. But eventually, it could include between six and 10 other buildings. It would allow skyscraper tenants who occupy at least 200,000 square-feet of space to put either four 324 square-foot signs on four sides of their own top floors, or two 628 square-foot signs on two sides.

The signs would have to be simple and white, with no flashing or rotating allowed.

The square-foot figure makes the size sound enormous, but when viewed in the context of a 598 foot-tall, 42-story skyscraper like the Russell Investments Center, the effect is more like the byline is to this article.

Here's a mock-up of what the sign-adorned building would look like. The sign is that teensy-weensy white line near the top of the middle building. Can't see it? Squint more.

russell investments01.jpg

The Seattle Times reports Tuesday evening that the council hearing was dominated by opponents of the plan, who basically said that, should it pass, the city would be whoring itself out to corporate interests, whose subtle logos on the tops of their buildings would make every inch of gorgeous urban architecture below that point impossible to look at.

Jeffrey Ochsner, a University of Washington architecture professor, whose own employer's massive logo currently sits atop the former Safeco building in the University District, says:

"We have a city with a remarkable skyline in a beautiful natural setting. Why would we want to deface it with corporate signs and logos? And to just give it away?"

Well, newsflash to the Not In My Back Yard community, if putting more signs up downtown means that we're giving away our identity, then consider us given and got.

Corporate signs ranging from the PI's globe, to Starbucks' green mermaid in Sodo, to the pink Elephant Car Wash sign on Denny Way, are already as recognizable to Seattleites as any skyscraper's upper floors.

Plus, there are already talks of imposing steep fees on any business that would want to advertise in this way, which, combined with the added taxable revenue likely to be brought in by the businesses themselves, could make the plan exactly what this broke-ass city needs. And the best part is, it doesn't involve a single tax hike or outrageous bridge toll (yet).

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