Eye-catching campaign stencils on Seattle sidewalks were applied overnight to show pedestrians where Sound Transit 3 stations could go.
Eye-catching campaign messages have suddenly appeared on Seattle sidewalks, to mark some future light-rail stations promised by the massive Proposition 1.
At the junction of Westlake Avenue and Denny Way, multicolor markings on four corners say, “Ballard 11 min., W. Seattle 21 min. Future subway station here, if you vote yes on Prop. #1.”
They were painted by Seattle Subway, a volunteer group, along with similar ads near proposed train stops at Ballard and Seattle Center.
Proposition 1, better known as Sound Transit 3, is a proposed increase in property, sales and car-tab taxes, to support $54 billion in regional projects over 25 years.
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“There’s going to be 30 subway stations in Seattle when ST3 is done,” said Seattle Subway spokesman Jonathan Hopkins, whose number includes aboveground light-rail stops, present and future. “This is a physical embodiment of how it affects people’s daily lives. Not everybody gets that from a map, or is aware.”
But is it legal?
The Seattle Municipal Code bans political signs “on all public property,” including but not limited to road medians, bridges, boulevards and greenbelts. Rules like these are routinely violated across the state.
Seattle Subway applied what Hopkins calls “chalk paint.” It can be scrubbed out or scuffed underfoot.
“It’s not meant to outlast the election,” Hopkins said.
Costs will exceed $500 and be reported as an in-kind donation to the Mass Transit Now campaign, he said.
Norm Mah, spokesman for the Seattle Department of Transportation, said the agency had received no complaints, but intended to ask Mass Transit Now to remove the messages.
In past years, SDOT street-use staff have told campaigns to remove illegal signs from city property, he said.
James Canning, spokesman for Mass Transit Now, said a city staffer called him Wednesday afternoon, and he urged the staffer to call Seattle Subway members. “The attempts to demonstrate support are great,” Canning said.
Rainstorms are in the forecast, so nature might erase the sidewalk ads within a day or two, anyhow.
Seattle residents temporarily mark the streets for all kinds of occasions, from Neighborhood Night Out to PARK(ing) Day where curbsides become temporary hangouts. A few steps from Wednesday morning’s ST3 blurbs, construction and utility crews have recently sprayed permanent paint.
Three years ago, an unsanctioned bike-lane markup on Cherry Street, by activists called “Reasonably Polite Seattleites,” was embraced by transportation staff, who converted it to a permanent facility.
Franklin Dennis, chairman of No on ST3, said he supports free speech but considers these markings “graffiti.”
“As long as it’s not permanent defacement, I would look the other way, but I think it violates the law,” he said. Opponents are focused on bigger issues, he said, such as the prospect of Sound Transit bond debt stretching into the 2060s.
“We’re comfortable with what we’ve done,” Hopkins said when asked Wednesday morning about legalities.