Content Neutral Code

Yard sign in Olympia neighborhood. Reads 'Content Neutral Sign Code'. Blue letters on white.

Content Neutral Code

Existing Code

Under the existing code, many of our sign regulations are based on sign content (e.g. political signs, real estate signs).

Proposed Update

The new sign code will be more "content neutral", meaning it will have less regulations based on sign types and instead focus on size and placement standards.

Some temporary sign standards will still be different based on whether or not the sign has a “commercial” (identifies business or items for sale) or a “non-commercial” message (ideology, campaign support, or similar).

Why are we proposing this change?

Recent court cases and opinions are the primary reason for this approach.

In June 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision related to temporary signs in the Reed et al v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona (Reed v. Gilbert) case, which provided direction to cities, towns, and counties regarding regulation of signs, particularly for temporary signs, in regard to content and freedom of speech.

In August 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a related case (Contest Promotions v. City and County of San Francisco), holding that Reed v. Town of Gilbert does not extend to commercial speech.

Questions?

Contact Joyce Phillips at 360.570.3722 or jphillip@ci.olympia.wa.us