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Thread: Sign clutter - seeking before and after images

  1. #1
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    Sign clutter - seeking before and after images

    I'm making a presentation for council members about why our revised zoning ordinance attempts to reduce sign clutter. Does anyone know of any good before/after pictures of sign clutter along a main street?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian ThePinkPlanner's avatar
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    Sign Clutter

    Not yet, but we should soon. Your post was a good reminder for me.

    In 2002, the Council adopted revisions to our sign ordiance (note, this is separate from our zoning ordinance) which called for drastic changes, including reductions in size and number. Our attorneys through some research found that 7 years is an acceptable amortization period for a sign. For 7 years, properties only had to conform to the new ordinance if they were seeking a new permit. In June of 2009, the date finally came. While some properties had changed over time, there was a flurry of changes in May and June. We have some before pictures from last year, but unfortunately none that I know of from 2002. Of course there are still property owners fighting the ordinance, but most parts of the city are in compliance. We will take 'after' photos of the signs soon.

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    That sounds cool

    That's a good idea, to make your own 'Before/After', in order to prove your point.

    In my situation, i'm trying to get a sign ordinance passed by the City Council, but they consider it 'anti-business' because it calls for a reduction in signage. I'm trying to prove that having an attractive streetscape can benefit businesses, but it's an abstract point to prove.

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    I did a google image search for "sign clutter" and came up with some good photos. You can also google for sign code/sign ordinance presentations and you'll find Power Points created with such images. When it comes to impressing the elected officials with the importance of sign regulatons , a picture is worth 1,000 words.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    The Dunn Foundation is really into solving the visual pollution problem. They seem to have education resources available, maybe they have some before and after shots you could use.

    http://www.dunnfoundation.org/index.php

    I remember seeing some photoshopped pictures where the visual clutter of signage was photoshopped out, but the white space where the signage had been was left. This method really showed how much space in the built environment was taken up by advertising. Very revealing.

    If you google "visual clutter" you get some interesting links. They deal more with the concept of visual clutter on computer screens and in the work environment, but I think the same principles carry over to the built environment (imho), especially the Feature Congestion theory that "the more cluttered a display or scene is, the more difficult it would be to add a new item that would reliably draw attention." This Journal of Vision article is very interesting, and not overy mathemetical:

    http://www.journalofvision.org/7/2/17/

    I hate visual clutter and I avoid visually cluttered areas as much as possible.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SWMPlanner View post
    That's a good idea, to make your own 'Before/After', in order to prove your point.
    A while ago, we did some photoshopping of before and after scenes for a corridor in my local community. I could e-mail you some of the scenes if you would like.

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    That sounds good

    Thanks, that would be uber helpful: pkirby@coldwater.org

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Although I do not have any pictures, I think your idea is great!

    The amount of clutter, and un-necessary signage is ridiculous. So many times I see poles with no actual sign just sticking out along highways.

    Let us know how the presentation goes.

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    Quote Originally posted by SWMPlanner View post
    I'm making a presentation for council members about why our revised zoning ordinance attempts to reduce sign clutter. Does anyone know of any good before/after pictures of sign clutter along a main street?
    What you are doing is trying to beautify your City at the expense of the people who are paying your taxes. Nobody wants a 100' sign. What is wanted is a nice looking sign that can be read down the road. Something that communicates with your customers. It is hard for City planners and officials who may never had an opportunity to build a business, pay taxes and employ people to understand how important it is to advertise on a sign. Signs are protected speech under the first amendment. (I assume you know what the Constitution is!) Signs are the most efficient way to communicate with the public. The public has a right to read your messages. With as many as 20% of the population moving in and out of almost any city in America,
    yearly, You can see why signs are so important to the viability of business.

    Quote Originally posted by ThePinkPlanner View post
    Not yet, but we should soon. Your post was a good reminder for me.

    In 2002, the Council adopted revisions to our sign ordiance (note, this is separate from our zoning ordinance) which called for drastic changes, including reductions in size and number. Our attorneys through some research found that 7 years is an acceptable amortization period for a sign. For 7 years, properties only had to conform to the new ordinance if they were seeking a new permit. In June of 2009, the date finally came. While some properties had changed over time, there was a flurry of changes in May and June. We have some before pictures from last year, but unfortunately none that I know of from 2002. Of course there are still property owners fighting the ordinance, but most parts of the city are in compliance. We will take 'after' photos of the signs soon.
    Any research done on the damage to businesses in your area now that they had to take down and reduce their signage? Or doesn't your City Council care? For many businesses, a sign is the only affordable way to advertise their product.

    I sued a City in Oregon in 2005 and won. Most of the sign codes in the US are unconstitutional and can be overturned. If the first amendment rights are infringed upon, the Hudson Test (a Supreme Court measure) is used to test the reason-ability of a City's sign ordinance. If it is shown that aesthetics are used as a justification, the City will loose and will have to reimburse the business mans lawyer fees.

    Quote Originally posted by ThePinkPlanner View post
    Not yet, but we should soon. Your post was a good reminder for me.

    In 2002, the Council adopted revisions to our sign ordiance (note, this is separate from our zoning ordinance) which called for drastic changes, including reductions in size and number. Our attorneys through some research found that 7 years is an acceptable amortization period for a sign. For 7 years, properties only had to conform to the new ordinance if they were seeking a new permit. In June of 2009, the date finally came. While some properties had changed over time, there was a flurry of changes in May and June. We have some before pictures from last year, but unfortunately none that I know of from 2002. Of course there are still property owners fighting the ordinance, but most parts of the city are in compliance. We will take 'after' photos of the signs soon.
    Amortization is another word for theft. A sign can grow in worth through the years when properly maintained. What if the City decided to amortize your house or car, and decided to take it away after 7 years. Hummm?

    Quote Originally posted by LMJ View post
    I did a google image search for "sign clutter" and came up with some good photos. You can also google for sign code/sign ordinance presentations and you'll find Power Points created with such images. When it comes to impressing the elected officials with the importance of sign regulatons , a picture is worth 1,000 words.
    Hey, try a google search for "sign code law suits" you will find that you just can't make it up and take away signs. Also check out the First Amendment and the Supreme Court rulings. Planners and City officials don't have the power they think they do. Thank God for the First Amendment.

    Quote Originally posted by JimPlans View post
    The Dunn Foundation is really into solving the visual pollution problem. They seem to have education resources available, maybe they have some before and after shots you could use.

    http://www.dunnfoundation.org/index.php

    I remember seeing some photoshopped pictures where the visual clutter of signage was photoshopped out, but the white space where the signage had been was left. This method really showed how much space in the built environment was taken up by advertising. Very revealing.

    If you google "visual clutter" you get some interesting links. They deal more with the concept of visual clutter on computer screens and in the work environment, but I think the same principles carry over to the built environment (imho), especially the Feature Congestion theory that "the more cluttered a display or scene is, the more difficult it would be to add a new item that would reliably draw attention." This Journal of Vision article is very interesting, and not overy mathemetical:

    http://www.journalofvision.org/7/2/17/

    I hate visual clutter and I avoid visually cluttered areas as much as possible.
    Try googling First Amendment rights. Have you studied the damage that Cities and Towns can do to businesses when they have an overly restrictive sign code?
    Last edited by Gedunker; 05 Feb 2010 at 9:23 AM. Reason: Merged five (5) seq. posts

  10. #10
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by slsigns View post
    Hey, try a google search for "sign code law suits" you will find that you just can't make it up and take away signs. Also check out the First Amendment and the Supreme Court rulings. Planners and City officials don't have the power they think they do. Thank God for the First Amendment.
    Courts have also ruled that aesthetics are also a legitimate police power of government. We can't control content, but everything thing else is on the table including, but not limited to, size, height, location, and illumination intensity.

    Judging by the number of faceless billboards out there, times must be difficult in the "outdoor advertising" industry at this time, aren't they?

    That breaks my heart.


    BTW, your consecutive posts make reading through this post very annoying.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    I seem to recall that slsigns own City of Lake Oswego's sign ordinance, including its amortization of pole signs, was upheld in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals: http://www.ci.oswego.or.us/pubaffair...%2030%2006.pdf
    There are lots of well-written, constitutionally-valid sign ordinances out there that have been upheld against legal challenges.

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    Otis

    Yes you are right. But have you seen downtown LO? and how the businesses are struggling? Oh that's right you don't care. Remember the businesses pay the most taxes. LO is shooting itself in the foot. Less business less taxes. And everybody knows government looooves taxes!!!

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by slsigns View post
    Yes you are right. But have you seen downtown LO? and how the businesses are struggling? Oh that's right you don't care. Remember the businesses pay the most taxes. LO is shooting itself in the foot. Less business less taxes. And everybody knows government looooves taxes!!!
    A downtown struggling does necessarily mean its because of a restrictive sign ordinance. I think there are other factors at play like population, income and there is one other thing....

    "it's the economy stupid

    Business that can adapt to ordinances and generate plenty of business under the guise of regulation. There are things such as word of mouth, customer service and new mediums such as yelp, google and other things on the internets that can help drive business up other than a ginamous 100' sign a pole pointing to me where the next hooters is.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    Courts have also ruled that aesthetics are also a legitimate police power of government. We can't control content, but everything thing else is on the table including, but not limited to, size, height, location, and illumination intensity.

    Judging by the number of faceless billboards out there, times must be difficult in the "outdoor advertising" industry at this time, aren't they?

    That breaks my heart.


    BTW, your consecutive posts make reading through this post very annoying.
    Size, Height, and Location restrictions can be used to restrict our First Amendment rights.

    In Central Hudson Gas & Elect. Corp v Public Service Comm'n of New York
    The Supreme Court came up with a test for government regulation of signs. There are four questions.
    1. The court must first ask if the commercial speech at issue concerns "lawful activity" and is not "misleading". (If the answer here is Negative, then no protection is afforded and the inquiry is ended.)
    2. The court must ask if the government interest served by the regulation is SUBSTANTIAL. (If the answer here is negative, then the First Amendment will be seen as invalidating the regulation, because speech should not be limited for insubstantial reasons.)
    3. Does the regulation DIRECTLY advance the government's interest?(astetics do not directly advance the governments interest).
    4.Is the regulation no more extensive than necessary to serve that interest? (reducing the size, number and location of signs, also reduces the readability and directly affects the success of business).

    Most sign codes fail when these four questions are applied. Mainly because government can't prove a Substantial Interest, and most can not prove that their regulations on speech directly advance the government's interest?

    Watch out planners! and Govt. Officials. When a regulation (such as a sign code) violates a civil right (such as commercial speech), under Title 42 U.S.C. 1983, if the case is not ruled to be a case of "first impression," the regulator must PAY DAMAGES to the regulated party. Furthermore, under title 42 U.S.C. 1988, the regulator is required to PAY the regulated party's reasonable legal fees. Many sign code issues have already been resolved by the courts, and could no longer be dealt with as cases of "first impression." Thus, it is of serious importance that a city concerned about its fiscal health considers carefully whether the courts will view its sign code as a violation of the civil rights of the business and individuals whose speech it will be regulating.

    Go ahead and make my day... Write a unconstitutional Sign Code. Somebody will make you pay for it. and you will have to re-write your code. Either way you loose when you try to deny the civil rights of the people.

    Quote Originally posted by SWMPlanner View post
    That's a good idea, to make your own 'Before/After', in order to prove your point.

    In my situation, i'm trying to get a sign ordinance passed by the City Council, but they consider it 'anti-business' because it calls for a reduction in signage. I'm trying to prove that having an attractive streetscape can benefit businesses, but it's an abstract point to prove.
    You need to study signage and the affect on the public and business in your area.
    You just can't say let's reduce signage without doing a study. Traffic speed, Geography, Surrounding businesses, all contribute to reasons why a sign should
    be a certain size or height. You can't make a cookie cutter law to fit everybody. It will cause more trouble than you think. Try some science instead of voodoo next time.
    In my area most of the Cities want all the signs lowered to the ground. This may look pretty, but the on coming traffic blocks the signs and the sign can't be read until you are on top of it. This causes traffic problems, because you can't prepare for a turn in so short a time. Now if the signs were above the traffic and the correct size then traffic problems are eliminated.

    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    A downtown struggling does necessarily mean its because of a restrictive sign ordinance. I think there are other factors at play like population, income and there is one other thing....

    "it's the economy stupid

    Business that can adapt to ordinances and generate plenty of business under the guise of regulation. There are things such as word of mouth, customer service and new mediums such as yelp, google and other things on the internets that can help drive business up other than a ginamous 100' sign a pole pointing to me where the next hooters is.
    I guess the best question to ask you is, have you ever invested your life savings in a business and work 12 to 16 hours a day, all without a sign? What commercial or retail businesses can do without a sign? Nobody wants a 100' tall sign here, but if you listen to the restrictive sign codes, high taxes and other burdensome regulations, you must conclude that Government is not a friend of business. Nor a friend of the public that needs what businesses supply.
    Last edited by Gedunker; 05 Feb 2010 at 9:24 AM. Reason: merged three (3) seq. posts

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by slsigns View post
    I guess the best question to ask you is, have you ever invested your life savings in a business and work 12 to 16 hours a day, all without a sign? What commercial or retail businesses can do without a sign?
    No, but my wife's grandparents have. There business is located in a BP where the signage is heavily regulated. They seem to advertise and generate plenty of business via the signage placed on their trucks, personalized plates, trade magazines, yellow pages and excellent customer service. Your trolling is getting tiresome.
    follow me on the twitter @rcplans

  16. #16
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Moderator note:
    I check out sign industry message boards from time to time, and I don't see planners or Scenic Wherever members posting on about "litter on a stick" or "visual pollution". However, we occasionally see the equivalent here on Cyburbia from those involved in the sign industry.

    Sign code administration is perhaps the most hair-pulling, frustrating aspect of the planning field. I say this based on my personal experience, and the experience of other planners I know. Planners post to Cyburbia seeking the advice and experiences of their peers. They want to relieve some of that frustration. They don't post in threads like this looking for yet another debate with those representing the sign industry.

    A reminder of a couple of Cyburbia's rules:

    2.11 Single issue posters / one-trick ponies
    The Forums are not intended to furnish people with a venue for single-mindedly promoting their personal agenda. Staff may ask users to limit or refrain from posting on a certain topic.

    2.14 Dissenting opinions
    There are some people that register not to participate, but to disrupt civil discourse and promote a personal agenda. Posts critical of the planning profession phrased in a confrontational manner ("All you ☭commie☭ planners are freedom-hating social engineers who want to take away our cars and guns", "You steam-era planners want to force us back into crowded tenements", etc ) are not permitted. Users with a history of making such posts, even on other message boards or Usenet, may be banned.


    slsigns, If you're interested in a debate about sign regulations and their effects, feel free to start a thread about the subject. Please don't hijack other threads or bump long-dormant threads to make a point. Thank you.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  17. #17
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by slsigns View post
    ....I guess the best question to ask you is, have you ever invested your life savings in a business and work 12 to 16 hours a day, all without a sign? What commercial or retail businesses can do without a sign? Nobody wants a 100' tall sign here, but if you listen to the restrictive sign codes, high taxes and other burdensome regulations, you must conclude that Government is not a friend of business. Nor a friend of the public that needs what businesses supply.
    Who among us suggested prohibiting signs? What we're saying is, it's a legitimate police power of government to regulate the size, height, location and design of signs. The rest of your perspective concerning burdensome regulations and gov't not a friend, is without merit.

    I'm done here.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    No, but my wife's grandparents have. There business is located in a BP where the signage is heavily regulated. They seem to advertise and generate plenty of business via the signage placed on their trucks, personalized plates, trade magazines, yellow pages and excellent customer service. Your trolling is getting tiresome.
    So you know of ONE instance that sign regulations haven't restricted a business.

    Hummm. I have been dealing with business and government for 30 years, and have seen the damage over regulation (in the name of SAFETY, AESTHETICS, and PC), has caused. Have you heard of the DARK SKY INITIATIVE? Another boondoggle! Government wants us to turn all of the signs off at night, along with all of the street lights, so people can look at the stars. GOOD BYE SAFETY, HELLO CRIME!!!! This is not a good idea.

    Educating people about the pitfalls of over regulation to make everything look pretty based on your aesthetics is my duty. Closely reading what the LAW requires will help cities stay out of trouble. Instead of keeping your head in the sand, pull it up and check out the consequences of over regulation.

  19. #19
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by slsigns View post
    So you know of ONE instance that sign regulations haven't restricted a business.

    Hummm. I have been dealing with business and government for 30 years, and have seen the damage over regulation (in the name of SAFETY, AESTHETICS, and PC), has caused. Have you heard of the DARK SKY INITIATIVE? Another boondoggle! Government wants us to turn all of the signs off at night, along with all of the street lights, so people can look at the stars. GOOD BYE SAFETY, HELLO CRIME!!!! This is not a good idea.

    Educating people about the pitfalls of over regulation to make everything look pretty based on your aesthetics is my duty. Closely reading what the LAW requires will help cities stay out of trouble. Instead of keeping your head in the sand, pull it up and check out the consequences of over regulation.
    Moderator note:
    Did you read anything I said? The OP was looking for before-and-after photos, not a debate about the validity of sign regulations. Start a new thread if you want that debate. I know this is a subject you're passionate about, but please don't hijack unrelated threads to promote your personal agenda. This is a formal warning.

    I'm closing this thread. If anyone is interested in answering the OP's request, please send me a PM or post a note in Cyburbia Issues and Help, and I'll reopen it.
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

Closed thread

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