Morning Poll: Ban Rooftop Signs?

by ARLnow.com July 16, 2012 at 10:15 am 4,984 71 Comments

As part of its recommendations for revising the county sign ordinance, the Arlington Planning Commission is recommending a ban on new signs placed higher than 40 feet on building walls, according to the Arlington Mercury.

If the recommendation is ultimately adopted by the County Board, it would effectively ban all new high-rise rooftop signs — popular with developers and businesses, especially in high-density commercial zones like Rosslyn and Crystal City.

Do you agree with the Planning Commission?

Flickr pool photo by Pderby

  • Erg

    I feel bad for anyone visiting the area trying to find their building. I also like being able to refer to certain places as “oh, by the Boeing building” or “over next to where DARPA was”. Lastly, everytime I got on the Metro cursing, I’d look around at the signs and ponder what life would be like if I worked in Arlington…sigh..

    • JohnB2

      Especially when building numbers aren’t always prominently displayed, it helps to have the easily-recognizable references.

      • Bemused bystander

        But if you’re looking for an entrance, shouldn’t the name of the building or tenant be at eye level, not up in the sky?

        • Frank

          Yes, the fire department makes sure street addresses are visible from the street.

        • CW

          Erg travels by helicopter.

  • that guy

    Signs on roofs should not be allowed… like billboards… but signs on the side of a building?? Who cares! If you are paying the immense money it takes to rent/build/own a building in Arlington, you should be allowed to put a sign on the side!

    Maybe they have to be approved to ensure they don’t get out of hand, but not banned all together.

    • shellshock868

      Signs on the Side are how you find your next job near your home!!! How else will I know about places near me? Many do no pay to post to Monster or Washington Post anymore.

  • nunya

    i dont necessarily mind rooftop signs.

    we just dont need jumbotrons on every corner.

  • KalashniKEV

    Does the “Planning Commission” own the buildings?

    Why don’t they just mind their own business… and go away?

    • drax

      So you oppose all zoning regulations, Kev? All regulation of private property use whatsoever?

      Perhaps you do. But nobody else does. The rest of us realize that our property is affected by our neighbors’. Stop using ridiculous logic and join reality.

      • John Fontain

        overreact much?

      • KalashniKEV

        Yes, but surely there is a wordless mural somewhere or a small business owner they could be harassing… Big Business brings jobs, taxes/revenue, and awesome light up signs that make it look like this place is worth setting up shop in!

    • not your bro

      The planning commission is a volunteer citizen body. If they minded their own business, this would all be regulated by county staff at the direction of the non-resident county manager. Personally, I appreciate having citizen involvement in this kind of decision. Some county bureaucrats are on the ball, but quite a number are woefully uninformed about the areas they’re supposed to be organizing and regulating.

      In fact, if I were you, I would try and get appointed to one of the county commissions. You would be much more likely to influence change from there than on here.

      • KalashniKEV

        “If they minded their own business, this would all be regulated by county staff…”

        Why would this be regulated?
        What gives them the power?

        • not your bro

          A couple centuries of laws and court cases.

          Look, I know you don’t care for government as a general matter. That’s actually why I think you would like the citizens’ advisory panels like the planning commission. If you get on one of those, you have a direct way to influence policy – more than you have voting republican in this jurisdiction or complaining about myriad injustices on ArlNow.

          You might find you’re able to persuade others on the panel, or the manager, or the board. But if you want change, the best way is to get involved.

  • CrystalMikey

    Really, why is this a bad thing. Makes the buildings look used as opposed to just soulless, vacant towers.

    • Superstar

      Yeah, what’s the major problem these signs are causing? Is there an epidemic of them falling off the building and killing people on the sidewalk or something?

      • not your bro

        I think it’s more the fear that they will spread outside of Rosslyn and Crystal City as the county urbanizes. It’s one thing to have a bright sign on all night in a business district, it’s another to have it across the street from your condo or townhouse.

    • Frank

      Jay Fisette made some comments against them several months ago. Something about commercialism or aesthetics/general clutter. Don’t quote me, but it was in an article on this site.

      • KalashniKEV

        You mean the guy who misappropriated public funds to open an art gallery and then ordered county employees to promote the AGLA “kiss in?”

        Why would anyone listen to him?
        (unless he’s got another giant check to hand over with your name on it)

  • Arlington Native

    Simple lettering on a building identifying the name of the company occupying the space can be helpful for people trying to find their way to places.

    On the other hand, I think big, obnoxious banners that advertise stuff should not be allowed (for example, an apartment building hanging a giant “RENT HERE NOW – CALL 703-xxx-xxx” sign.)

  • lala

    Why is the county involved at all in this type of decision? Who the hell is complaining about the signage anyway?

  • Clarendon

    There wasn’t much detail about the Planning Commission discussion of the rooftop building signs. Were any of the PC for them ? The article said they were “woo’d” by those opposed – were there any speaking that were “woo’ing” the other way ? This is the problem, people who don’t mind or might even like interesting rooftop signs above 40ft or whatever would never show up to a meeting to express that unless they were the business that wanted to keep their sign.

  • For the tenant paying a big rent they should have the option for signage. Perhaps limits on percent of area so it’s not covered from roof to sidewalk. Rosslyn and other high-rise business districts could begin to look like the city in “Blade Runner” saturated with ads. At such a level they begin to lose their effectiveness. http://www.wired.com/images/article/magazine/1605/st_bladerunner_f.jpg

  • JimPB

    What relation does ARLCo policy re: rooftop signs have to core functions of government, e.g., public education, public health, public safety?

    Unless there is a strong and clear relationship to a core function of ARLCo government, banning rooftop signs is improper and overreaching regulation.

    • drax

      It seems that Arlington starts with the assumption that something should be regulated or banned until you convince them otherwise, instead of the other way around. It’s a little ridiculous when it comes to these goofy sign ordinances.

      • CW

        I think the problem with the sign rules is that tackiness/overcommercialization is pretty subjective and there’s a lot of grey areas and slippery slopes. I feel that most people would agree that big billboards along route 50 would be pretty trashy-looking, but then where does it stop? I am glad to see the sandwich board rule reversed; not so sure about this one. I think the hard part is just drawing the line. The goal is that they don’t want things getting out of control, but in doing so they come down in an overly restrictive way.

  • gymmyray

    As Virginia loses it’s edge as “pro business” I don’t think Arlington should be telling businesses they can’t promote themselves on tasteful building signs.

  • KARLington

    Let’s eliminate any and all advertising or attempts by businesses to make themselves stand out. That’s just not right. They should have to recruit talent, win work from clients and make money without anyone recognizing their name.

    • Clarendon

      As a resident, I am proud to see businesses choosing m neighborhood and announcing their presence. I think interesting signs with different colors glowing at night enhance the skyline. But, I know many, apprarently on the PC that want to pretend they live on the prairie in kansas. Maybe different areas of the county should have different guidlines.

      • South Awwlington

        It is kinda crazy huh? Business like and Urban Arlington, as envisioned by the CB yet Mayberry when it fits.

        Bi-polar disorder on the jurisdiction level.

    • WeiQiang

      Those signs will bring in at least 75 new jobs.

      As for “interesting signs with different colors”, be careful what you ask for. Look at Hong Kong or Shanghai: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-3z1SfgupMAs/Tn4LN61VPvI/AAAAAAAADoM/ifSbF4vGmyA/s1600/hong-kong-skyline.jpg

      • drax

        Oh, yeah, don’t forget to put “75 new jobs” in the Bluebook.

      • MattL

        I’d love to live in a place that looks so vibrant and alive. Why does Arlington often seem so fixated on becoming generic-urbia?

        • Arlington could restrict signage like in Reston, Columbia, or Kentlands where only a low sign can be seen from the main road. It’s nearly impossible to find businesses in those areas even if you are looking.

          Pet peeve: businesses without clearly displayed street numbers and generic positions shown on online maps.

      • TJLinBallston

        How I wish some of this 21sr Century splendor rubbed-off on Ballston,at least. Maybe Rosslyn/Courthouse is a bit too close to the DC horizon and Clarendon likes to keep it cozy, Ballston should be lit-up like christmas tree!

      • Boom! Roasted

        That looks about 10000x more interesting than the current Ballston-Rosslyn corridor.

  • The Dude

    this is stupid. No billboards? Fine. No signage? stupid

  • Ballstonian

    Seems like a solution to a problem no one had.

    • WeiQiang

      + 75

    • ballstoncmyk

      i agree.

      i once worked on getting signage up on a building in the R-B corridor (never came to fruition though — the company decided to change their logo last minute) and it was a lot more involved than just “make me a sign and get a crane.”

      signage is already regulated by the county AND the property itself. there are plenty of brightness and size restrictions, partially to keep things from getting ridiculous, but also so that the building can offer up the perk of signage to more than one tenant, if need be.

      personally, yeah, i prefer to see the signage. it’s nice to know what companies are operating in your area.

      • Ballstonian

        I think its also helpful as a landmark. Granted, a lot (most) people use a GPS, but it would be helpful to be able to tell people to turn right at Building X, particularly where the street signts arent exactly huge.

  • Tabs

    How about banning the sign- and mural-hating board?

  • JudyM

    Keep the signs!

  • Why is this even an issue? Waste of time and tax payer money. I routinely use roof-level signs when giving other people directions to places in Arlington.

  • Ballston

    I think this is the first time there’s ever been general agreement about an issue on here.

  • South Awwlington

    Naming rights on buildings aren’t cheap. This doesn’t lend itself to being pro-business and pro commercial taxing, which the County heavily relies on. Are there issues with current signage or do we simply not like them?

    If a company decides to invest in doing business in Arlington and is proud of that fact, why not let them put their name on the building. It’s not a traditional advertisement with contact information and a services listing.

    • Observer

      I could be wrong, but I don’t think this issue is about “naming rights”, as in the tenant paying a large sum of money to the building owner.

      Usually it is just a company that wants some advertising, and they pay the cost of installing and maintaining the sign, but nothing above that.

      The building owner/manager would have to have a provision in the lease that allows certain amounts of signage, but that is where the legislation needs to get worked out so they know what to put in the lease.

      • South Awwlington

        Not sure the correct process or if it is anything like “Verizon Center” or “M&T Bank Stadium” but I think it would have to be similar. Else, if you have multiple tenants occupying two or three floors each, you would have companies competing for whose name goes up. I’ve never seen more than one company headlining a building. Highest bidder? I don’t know.

        • soarlslacker

          Verizon (originally Bell Atlantic) pays $5 million per year to “Name” the NBA/NHL Arena at Gallery Place.

        • Rosslontrent

          Waterview in has two names on it – Deloitte and CEB. CEB was the first resident and used to have most of the space, but Deloitte could well have more floors by now. I guess both companies just tossed cash at the owner, and up went the signs.

  • TJLinBallston

    Quick! Somebody call Floyd Abrams and see if he’ll work pro-bono. There are slam-dunk First Amendment considerations if the County Board gets all prissy about commercial identification. What ever happened to “pride of place?” If anything, the County would be wise to gently encourage tasteful but telling identification. Pride of place! These companies and organizations just want to show up and say they’re here. “No signage” leads to the blank, expressionless character of the dreadly-named “Crystal City” neighborhood that they are now trying to fix. Vegas must stay in Vegas, of course, but a little urban bling at night makes people happy.

  • Swag

    Nothing wrong with a name and logo.

  • U ROY


  • JoeinVA

    I’m from New Jersey, so I kind of miss the big billboards, especially telling me about strip clubs. 🙂

    But seriously, what about unlit signs. I’m not a fan of the gaudy lit neon signs, but I have no problems with unlit names like the defense contractors have in Rosslyn.

  • G::TheNativeArlingtonian

    Arlington County seemingly doesn’t want to businesses to move into office space in Arlington. As long as the sign isn’t flashing, changing colors, i.e. a true distraction, I don’t see any reason not to allow it. Same goes for the fuss over WJLA’s news ticker…at ground level that is a nice feature.

  • Mary-Austin

    I’ve heard that some on the County Board feel that that signs must go because they may be visible from the national mall and monuments in the area and it takes away from that. Their idea is that the signage is encroaching on public lands in that regard. Not sure I agree with them but once again the County Board does whatever it wants regardless of whether a problem exists.

    • Ballstonian

      The buildings of Rosslyn and CC are visible, but the signage would have to be pretty huge to be readable from that distance, let alone “take away from” the Mall. Plus, the rest of the R-B corridor, Shirlington, etc., really arent visible from the Mall.

      • Mary-Austin

        Yeah. Seems like kind of a silly reason to ban them throughout the County.

  • soarlslacker

    Some of the regulations have been proposed to address the high rises in Crystal City on the East side of Rt1/Jeff Davis. Local discussion in the past on building signage has been related to large neon signs overwhelming the single family home neighborhoods on the West side of Rt1/Jeff Davis. Those folks that live close to Eads St. may not favor big neon signs in Crystal City.

  • i have my name on the side of my house in big, neon letters so i sure hope they don’t ban this…

    • LuvNeon

      As far as I know, a residential house is allowed to have a neon sign with your name on it as it is not a commercial venture. Does anyone know if that is true ?

  • YTK

    Just another example of the type of idiocy that goes on in county planning. No new signs placed higher than 40 feet on building walls? A great way to keep businesses out of Arlington and for the ones already here to take their signs and LEAVE.

    • CMo

      What a horrible idea to limit rooftop signs. This is nothing more than a message to the business community to pack their bags and move to Fairfax or Montgomery. There is no rational basis to push this through – the signage actually adds to the community feel, makes a sattement that we are business friendly and allows us to boast to those pasing through that we are a player in the business world. Signage already must be turned off at 10 PM, and is already limited in size. If you are Northrop Grumman and you can move to Falls Church with a tasteful sign at the top of your building announcing your presence, or you can move to Arlington with no “presence” permitted because of ludicrous sign limitations – where would you go? (And yes, letting Northrop Grumman pass us by was a HUGE loss.) This is way out of hand.

  • Mack

    Nice. The headline asks “Ban Rooftop Signs?” and the poll asks “Do you agree with the planning commission?” Confusion, anyone?

  • MC

    My company recently re-uped its lease, increasing its square footage. The landlord offered a sign atop the building. The message of this ‘planning commission’ is that we don’t matter, we are a nuance. I assure you the sign causes no blight, even though it is well above 40 feet. The Arlington Economic Development office needs to reign in this kind of stupidity – otherwise firms will think the DC government is more pro-business.

  • ArlLawyer

    So — Only NEW signs will be banned??? Sounds a lot like protecting the commercial interests of the current sign-owners at the expense of newcomers who want to establish a presence in Arlington. The current set of building and zoning regulations concerning rooftop signs are all that is needed — for both old and new signs.

  • Greg

    I have a solution. Let’s just ban all buildings above 40 feet so that everyone can agree on the sign issue.


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