Illegal signs, photo courtesy myurbanist.com

By now, most of us have either heard about or seen the yard and lawn signs that are popping up around South and West Bellevue, particularly around 112th Ave SE & Bellevue Way.  For those who haven’t, the signs’ text reads: “NO TRAINS in our neighborhoods!” amidst a bright red background.  The signs are part of efforts to try and sabotage Sound Transit’s preferred B2M alignment, and instead support B7, the BNSF route that four Bellevue city councilmembers like.  The signs also bear a website, which turns out to be that of “Build a Better Bellevue”, a pro-B7 coalition I’ve mentioned in the past.

Unfortunately for “Better Bellevue”, the signs are illegal.  While they do sit alongside other election signs for candidates running for office, they themselves are not election signs, and there are a few city codes that stipulate what can and what can’t be posted on city streets.  Thanks to an anonymous tipster, we were able to get some answers from a City of Bellevue code compliance supervisor:

For purposes of the City of Bellevue’s Sign Code (BCC 22B.10), “political sign” is defined as “signs advertising a candidate or candidates for public elective office, or a political party, or signs urging a particular vote on a public issue decided by ballot.”  See BCC 22.B.10.020, Definitions.  Yard signs carrying a political message NOT relating to a current ballot measure or candidate are permitted on private property, but not on public rights-of-way in the City of Bellevue.

The last part is the most important, because while the signs are perfectly legal on someone’s lawn, they are not allowed on city right-of-way, where the vast majority of them are.  While it appears that there might not be as many as there were a month ago, I’ve been told that there are still a large number of them not on private property.

43 Replies to “‘No Trains’ Signs in Bellevue are Illegal”

  1. How is this enforced? I would love to rip them out tonight, but I believe that is also illegal.

    1. Vigilante justice. But since the signs are illegal, I’m sure it’s plenty legal to rip them out.

      1. Actually it’s not legal for you to remove them from public property. Call the city to complain. They can either remove them or fine the organization if they fail to remove them.

  2. I don’t think it matters. It’s clearly a political sign, and the definition of the Bellevue statue is probably too narrow for my tastes.

    1. I think this would be big deal if Bellevue was generally strict about enforcing the rule, but that probably isn’t the case here.

      1. Signs like this are a PITA. They’re put up for haircuts, weight loss, get out of debt, etc. All of which have about as much validity as the No Trains signs. Most of these signs end up in the gutter (gutter is the Bellevue word for bike lane). While I would generally position myself as aligned with the “Better Bellevue” organization goals, street litter is not the way to win over voters.

  3. file a complaint; depending on the jurisdiction there could be a window for removal and a fine per sign

  4. Clearly the only way to resolve this is to start posting signs on our private property that read “NO illegal SIGNS in OUR neighborhoods!

  5. I guess they could just bypass Bellevue (cue EricG) and race out to Msoft and have money left over to hit Redmond. Sorta like they did to Tukwila when they became too much of a pain in the butt.

  6. In general most cities enforce these things via citizen complaints. Most larger cities also have a code compliance officer “on patrol” as it were. For the most part, in the case of signs in the ROW code compliance can simply yank them up (because the ROW is city property, therefore the city as property owner can remove signs from its property), throw them in the back of their truck, and contact [the candidate, the organization supporting/opposing a measure, etc.] to come pick up their sign at city hall, with an admonition to comply with the sign code. Repeat offenders can get fined or have civil action taken against them.

    Do not rip them out yourself. Despite being located illegally, the sign is private property and so removing it yourself is theft.

    1. If they’re *actually* on public property, obstructing the right-of-way, aren’t they litter abandoned property, and a public nuisance? No way is picking up litter “theft”.

  7. Bellevue revised its sign code a few years ago – allowing the very large “MICROSOFT” and “EXPEDIA” words to light up on all the tall buildings – and making things more restrictive for the small businesses at street level.

    The enforcement is very weak on the temporary signs, with the real estate agents and empty condo and apartments continually violating the rules with 24 hour a day side-walk and wheelchair impeding signs, instead of working within their specific and generous exemptions.

    But, but, but….Can we get back to telling people about the goodness of mass-transportation systems (and taking of private lands) and quit calling people “liars” and attacking people for tyring to express political views via tehcnically violative yardsigns?

    That is all.

    1. Can we […] quit calling people “liars” and attacking people for tyring to express political views via tehcnically violative yardsigns?

      There’s a big difference between those two. Deceiving the public poisons the well of discussion. The signs are merely a nuisance, but are not in and of themselves attempts to build strawmen.

      1. AS far as I can tell the only strawmen are the Better Bellevue people themselves. Talk about liars. Whoooweee, can they spin a yarn!

    2. If lies and unlawful moves can spread enough misinformation as to sway public sentiment, then I don’t see a problem calling people out for it.

      1. You mean like the lies Sound Transit used to get the voters to pass ST2? Even the PSRC says Sound Transit’s number were false. You are right, Sherwin, they should be called out on that.

      2. Soccer Dad, you’ve bothered to do no research but follow the anti-ST ideologies that have permeated your thinking. Have you ever thought or tried to find out why that might be? PSRC’s Vision 2040 modelling uses ‘headway based assignments’ which do not consider inter-modal connective synergy between the transit modes, thus their numbers don’t assume there’s an imperative difference between trains and buses, which there is. PSRC also doesn’t account for park-and-ride SOV trips. Also, those figures do not reflect the service increases that we will see under ST2. Anyone who works in the planning realm (it doesn’t seem like you do) will tell you that statistical modeling has its flaws.

        Vision 2040 was conducted well after ST2 was– sorry to burst your bubble, but there’s no active conspiracy going on at ST. All they’re doing is their jobs– to make sure transit actually works well here, something Better Bellevue doesn’t give a damn about. How many of its members ride transit on a regular basis and have a stake in good transit? I’ve only heard one testify so at council meetings.

  8. You can report code compliance concerns and the city of Bellevue seems very responsive. I’ve used this webform to report cars parked on sidewalks (illegal) and shrubbery overgrowing sidewalks (problems that forced us into the street on our walk to school last year). Both problems were resolved promptly. Don’t know if they are as responsive on illegal signs, but if you see any, presumably this is where you report them:

    http://www.ci.bellevue.wa.us/code_compliance_complaint.htm

  9. I think I’ll just head over there with a can of orange spray paint and make the words “NO” and “better” blend in with the background of the sign.

      1. Talk to the folks in the Brookshire and Mercer Park condos about putting up bill boards (on their property of course). They voted +60% for light rail and need to start a better lobbying effort or Surrey Downs is going to steal it away from them.

      2. Bernie, lets be perfectly clear here. While some of the BBB folks might live in Surrey Downs, the Surrey Downs neighborhood association is not, absolutely NOT affiliated with the BBB.

  10. Interesting video that accompanies the sign above. Simulates a train ride on 112th someday with haunted signshttp://www.myurbanist.com/?p=3554

  11. The parks department, or possibly some other landscaping entity was seen (by me) removing great number of them along 112th. With several of us complaining, I suspect the city will simply and quietly send someone out to remove the rest of them. Therefore, we should tell them in advance where as many of them are as we know about, so they can get the job done.

  12. the Better Bellevue website actually says that bringing light rail to Bellevue will turn it from a city in a park to a city in a parking-lot. Last time I checked, transit riders don’t need parking lots.

    1. Exactly, running down Bellevue Way just to Super Size the P&R is silly. And a new mega garage at 130th (complete with new freeway access to/from 520 westbound is foolish; transit riders don’t need parking lots. And they sure as hell don’t need a new NE 15/16th St bisecting Bel-Red.

      1. But only one in the Mercer Slew Nature Preserve and it’s past due for a parking diet. Lots and lots of lots surrounding the hotels next to 405 and on the east side of the freeway along “auto row” where they’re sitting largely unused. Traffic congestion is largely the undesirable consequence of abundant free parking. We certainly don’t want to be spending ST2 transit dollars building more of it. You run high capacity rail where there’s high density that has exceeded the capacity for any more single occupancy vehicles, right?

      2. Which is why there will still need to be bus service on Bellevue Way if ST builds their current preferred alternative. They’ll just be forced to transfer to Link which can just as easily be done at M.I. after picking up folks at S. Bellevue.

    1. This isn’t a petty issue. It’s small, to be sure, but it’s important to notify people to take action against illegally posted signs put up by an organization that promulgates lies about the public mandate for and effects of East Link.

  13. Hilarious. I am sure you clowns are all for free speech, as long as it supports YOUR view. Welcome to the Bertoletization of Seattle discourse.

    1. Putting up signs that violate City law has nothing to do with “free speech,” a convenient hot-button used when there is no better counter-argument, which belittles actual struggles for free speech faced by many in this country. The signs are illegal, the City removes illegal signs. C’est assez simple.

    1. The ideas have been argued, the two sides now clearly defined. Nothing wrong with turning your opponent in for breaking the rules.

      To put it another way, you gotta call fouls when you see them, or you’ll just get walked all over.

  14. The truly big questions regarding Better Bellevue or BBB as they call themselves are not being addressed in this thread. These folks are anonymous. There are rumors flying all over the place, and you know how much rumors are worth, however some of them appear to be true.

    There are 5 names on the website of the BBB, these are powerless front people. The BBB rumors itself to have powerful, monied people among their ranks. Who are these people and why are they shadow folks. If the BBB is doing good work why are they anonymous? The seamy underbelly of Bellevue?

    The BBB is not a non-profit organization as was promoted on their website, yes I checked their non-profit status. They have no accountability for the money that is “donated” and no accountability for the changes they want to make in everyone’s lives.

    Their benevolence in our lives is arrogant. Don’t worry your pretty little head about a thing little lady, we know what is best for you and we’ll take care of it. Whether you want us to or not!? Even the name is arrogant. Better Bellevue? Better in whose eyes? Better than what? Better for who? Better watch out! This is NIMBY in its finest form.

    Better Bellevue? If their efforts are about Bellevue why do their signs only appear on 112th. Have you seen any of their signs in Crossroads, in Lake Hills, in Newport Hills? Nope, Just along 112th and in downtown.

    These people are laughing stocks and I think that is pretty clear considering that their illegal signs are now being defaced. There are paper signs being glued over the red signs that say such things as, “No Trains, we already have transit” or “No Trains, my BMW doesn’t need rails”. Miriam Webster: laughing -stock, “an object of ridicule”. It couldn’t have come at a better time, Bellevue needs a good laugh. OOOOh, their making Bellevue Better already.

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