On Thursday and Friday I posted information on Pierce County’s worst intersections for illegal signs. The numbers came from an analysis of nearly 8,800 illegal signs the county’s public works department collected during a 2007-08 crackdown.
The database I analyzed also includes information on the contents of the signs collected. But because of inconsistencies in the way county workers entered the information, it’s tough to come up with a definitive list of the worst offenders. For example, they entered the exact phrase "John L Scott" in the data on 184 signs. But that number doesn’t take into account scores of variations, like "John L Scott/Home For Sale" and "John L Scott/(Realtor’s name here)." That makes determining the number of "John L Scott" signs more complicated than you might think.
Now multiply that times the 3,706 unique entries in the sign content field (like "John L Scott," "1 800 Got Junk" and "You Can Buy a Foreclosure") and you’ll begin to understand how difficult it is to come up with a definitive list of "worst" offenders.
Then consider that we’re only talking about 8,800 of the more than 16,000 signs county workers collected during the crackdown, so the possibility of unfairly labeling someone the "worst offender" becomes fairly high. We decided against publishing a "definitive" list that wasn’t really definitive.
Nonetheless, I think it’s fair to say the following types of signs were among the most common illegal signs:
&bull Real estate and building firms (John L Scott, Windermere and Keller Williams were among the most common names I saw)
&bull For rent (the single most popular entry; that exact phrase was listed on 340 signs)
&bull For sale by owner
&bull Home for sale
&bull Rent to own
Few will be surprised that real estate signs of various kinds dominate the list. It’s worth noting that county workers didn’t enter in the database flimsy "yard sale" and other temporary signs, so that may skew the results.
Also worth noting: Patricia Brewer, government affairs chairwoman for the Tacoma-Pierce County Association of Realtors, believes the county singled out real estate signs during the crackdown, while taking it easy on other types of signs. She said it’s easier to pick on real estate firms "than Joe Smith advertising a yard sale every weekend for a year."
Brian Ziegler, the county’s public works director, said his workers did not single out real estate signs. "We are an equal opportunity remover," he said.