The First Choice Car Wash at 15th and Beacon has been granted an extension on their compliance deadline for filing permits for the business. The new deadline is June 1. The building currently is permitted for a retail use, not for car washing, detailing, and stereo installation. However, as posted earlier, the building is also zoned NC2P-40 (Neighborhood Commercial 2, Pedestrian-Designated Zone, 40-foot height limit), which means that no drive-in or drive-through businesses are allowed. A change-of-use may not be possible in this location.
There is another minor violation of the law at that site as well, though it’s likely they didn’t realize it was against the law, and several other nearby businesses are doing it too. As it turns out, it’s illegal to put A-frame signs on sidewalks, except in certain business districts that have actually obtained special street use permits to allow and regulate them. Those districts are Broadway, Pioneer Square, and Pike Place Market. Period.
Beacon Hill cannot have these signs, legally, unless a Business Improvement Association, historic district, or Chamber of Commerce is formed here. The district group would then need to get 60% of the businesses in the area to sign on, carry $1 million in liability insurance, and then obtain a Street Use Annual Permit from the city. Who knew?
Even in districts that allow such signs, it is illegal to have more than one sign per business, and they have to be directly in front of the business. First Choice has had up to three signs in front of their shop, and one across the street.
Sidewalk signs are relatively harmless, but one can see why limiting each business to one would be a good idea. The signs are taking up space in the public right-of-way, after all. In the case of the car wash, the signs are right in the entrance to two crosswalks. This is probably not an ideal location for pedestrian safety. (Nor is their driveway, as can be seen in the photo with this post.)
Since Beacon Hill’s Chamber of Commerce has gone dormant, it’s not likely that sidewalk signs will be made legal on the Hill anytime soon. In the meantime, First Choice and several other local businesses are violating a law that most of us have probably never even heard of.