City sends letter to downtown businesses, announcing new sign code rules

Guiness at ChurchKey
New regulations in downtown Edmonds require a permit for pedestrian signs. (My Edmonds News file photo)

The City of Edmonds sent a letter to all businesses in the downtown/waterfront area this week alerting them to changes in the city’s sign regulations.

On Aug. 2, the Edmonds City Council approved changes to regulations governing signage, including A-frame or other pedestrian signs often seen on downtown sidewalks. Under the new law, those signs now need to be permitted, with an associated one-time $125 fee, and also must comply with several other new requirements, including size and location.

The city decided to review its sign policy following citizen complaints about visual clutter as well as concerns that the pedestrian signs impede access by those with disabilities attempting to navigate the sidewalks. The goal, said City of Edmonds Development Director Shane Hope, was to reduce that clutter while still making sure businesses “have opportunities for reasonable signage.”

On Aug. 17, the Development Department sent a letter to all licensed businesses in the downtown/waterfront area — more than 570 of them — to make sure they know about the code update and the fact that they need a permit for their pedestrian signs.

Bountiful Home and Nursery owner Todd Waddell took to Facebook Thursday asking his customers for help in spreading the word that he is still open, now that he can longer have an A-frame sign on Main Street. The nursery is on Fourth Avenue off Main Street, and the tucked-in location makes it challenging for wandering downtown shoppers to come across. You can see the Facebook request here.

Facebook page of Bountiful Home and Nursery
Facebook page of Bountiful Home and Nursery

Hope said that so far, the city has received “only a few calls or visits from businesses” seeking more information on what’s required, but she added that if any business owner is uncertain, “we welcome anyone asking for clarification!”

Summary of sign code changes
Pedestrian signs in downtown area:
• “Pedestrian signs” include signs such as A-frame (sandwich board), stanchion, easel, or post-style signs intended as free-standing signs in the downtown/waterfront pedestrian environment
•These are now a form of permanent signage, with restrictions, and counts against overall sign area (they are no longer classified as “temporary” signs)
• Only one allowed per ground floor store front
• Only allowed while the business is open
• Businesses may rotate their signs or combine messages to share the allowed sign
• The sign must be located within 10 feet of the entry
• There must be a minimum 5 feet of pedestrian clearance, and the sign needs to be located within 2 feet of building; an exception may be obtained under certain circumstances by applying to the ADB (Architectural Design Board)
• Pedestrian signs are allowed a maximum size of 6 square feet.
Other sign code amendments also approved:
• For illuminated signs, symbols on sign can be illuminated (not just the
• Halo signs, where the light source is concealed behind an opaque face, are specifically allowed.
• Sign height is tied to the actual finished grade, not the original grad
• Monument signs,  freestanding signs that have integrated the structural component of the sign into the design of the sign and sign base, are better defined and can be located 5 feet from property line (i.e. w/in setbacks
• Signage on 1-story buildings with mansard roofs are recognized. This is a roof that has four sloping sides, each of which becomes steeper halfway down.
• The City’s sign area calculation practice is put into the code (i.e. it calculates outlines of applied letters, not including the background).
• The Architectural Design Board can grant modifications due to unique architectural elements of a building, not just site limitations.
You can see the complete sign ordinance here.
  1. I have to agree that regulations are necessary, common sense just hasn’t worked. The newly widened sidewalk is reduced to single file at many locations with outside dining plus an A-frame sign.

  2. The return of Deadmonds – the next sign small businesses (not right on the main drags) will be posting will be “going out of business!” How did they manage to get this ordinance exactly backwards? The only businesses that will benefit from it are the ones that don’t need it!

  3. Is there really need for the sort of demeaning comments like “Deadmonds,” which add nothing to the discussion, but do demean those of us who support the decision or happen to love Edmonds?

  4. All the activity downtown including those enjoying the new splash. park seemed very much alive.
    Let’s celebrate the improvement in Edmonds .

  5. We all love Edmond’s new vibrancy, but people don’t realize what a fine line most of our small downtown businesses balance on to stay open. For the businesses even a few doors down from the main streets a signboard can make all the difference. Under the new rules, sign boards are still allowed, but only a few feet away from the front doors. Think of Edmonds hardware store, Bountiful Home, Spangler book exchange and Zinc. No signage on the corners mean far fewer customers. We all benefit from these stores staying in business. They need our help in protecting their visibility. We miss Dragonfire Gallery!

    1. These seem like valid concerns to me. We know that one hardware store has already failed at the current location. I wonder how city council plans to mitigate the loss of signs in effective spots for these businesses.

  6. ‘Under the new law, those signs now need to be permitted, with an associated one-time $125 fee, and also must comply with several other new requirements, including size and location.’

    Every new REG seems to come with a new FEE…

  7. One of the topics that came up during the Planning Board’s sign code discussions was the use of uniform directional signs, which would benefit businesses that were not on the main streets of downtown Edmonds. I would implore downtown businesses and Ed! to encourage city council in looking at having these types of signage.


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