Commentary: Downtown signs serve an important purpose

Neil Tibbott

What’s become obvious to me and possibly many others is that A-board signs downtown serve an important purpose for our local businesses. While I do agree that it was getting out of hand, the new code and new input from business owners has brought some much needed improvements.

Not all businesses want or need pedestrian-level signs. The ones that do have used them to tell us what’s new this week or what’s on the menu or what opportunity we can take advantage of. As a consumer, I find that information interesting and sometimes useful. Signs can add vibrancy to our shopping experience.

Some people have pointed out that signs can be a walking hazard. The new sign code helps to alleviate that issue. We’ve also been concerned about the clutter, but businesses are now limited to one sign and must meet some new design standards. As a result, I like the improvements and congratulate the downtown business owners and city staff for taking on the challenge to find a way forward.

There are a couple of remaining questions. One has to do with fees. The Edmonds City Council has already discussed eliminating fees for blade signs, the small signs hanging above the entrance of many businesses. But, the council continues to discuss fees for pedestrian signs.

Another issue relates to the way we count total sign space that each business may use. The city limits the total amount of window space and store frontage that can be used for signs. Who knew! The new rules require that pedestrian signs be counted in those totals. I’m suggesting that we drop that requirement.

Here’s why. Businesses have already told us they want pedestrian signs because they serve a different purpose than their building signs that can’t be easily updated or used for seasonal activity. I also think permanent signage needs to be placed and sized in the best possible way for each building, to present the business in the best possible light. Reducing 6 square feet from that calculation is an unnecessary regulation that accomplishes very little. I would prefer that we eliminate the requirement to include pedestrian signs in the building sign calculations.

What do you think? There will be a public hearing next week at the March 21 council meeting where citizens can provide their input. You might want to stick around for the hearing about buffers at the Marsh.

— By Neil Tibbott
Edmonds City Council


  1. Signs on the street add a festive, come and shop feeling. There is nothing wrong with the A board signs, and I think that people are being too fussy about keeping Edmonds pristine.
    Leave them in a position that is not dangerous, and enjoy our bustling town. PArking is the bigger problem!


  2. We live in Paradise. Signs, if attractive and safely place helps the business attract customers and is a win for everyone. “The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any one place is always replete with new improvisations.” Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities.


  3. As a former Edmonds business owner (Salon 512 5th Ave S) I would use an A sign to showcase a special sale we we’re having. Other business along 5th Ave S also use A signs to showcase some current event or special, drawing people into their shops. Small businesses, being on a tight budget, rely on those shoppers. To include A signs in the total sq footage of allowed signage is missing the point, along with being restrictive. Lighten up City Of Edmonds and Council, embrace those businesses that make Edmonds the wonderful vibrant town that it is!


  4. If they didn’t have A boards I wouldn’t have found several “hidden gems” stores in Edmonds. That pay taxes I might add. If they didn’t have signs they may not stay in business in Edmonds and there goes the revenue. I have traveled to MANY cities and most all have signs. I have never seen a sign that I would think was a health hazard. Now, I couldn’t say the same for some of our trees.


  5. I simply do not understand how A signs constitute a “walking hazard.” Do people walk with their eyes closed? Perhaps opening their eyes and/or stopping texting for a moment would prevent a fatal collision with a sign, obviously a concern for some people in Edmonds.

    I LIKE A signs. They add color, they inform, they add variety. I saw many A signs in England last fall, and not one fatality, not one ambulance rushing to rescue a pedestrian entangled in an A sign. I can only echo Gail Meyring: lighten up, people! If stationary signs seem to you to be a threat, maybe get a helmet?




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