skip navigation
Support KUOW

Floating Billboards Idea Not Floating Among Permitters

Sara Lerner

A new and unique advertising model has Seattle–area residents concerned about losing a slice of beautiful landscape. Though various city officials are saying no to floating billboards, the man behind the idea says his business is still going. KUOW's Sara Lerner reports.


Darran Bruce is still hopeful he can go through with his floating billboard plan. He tested the idea on Lake Washington last week. He planned to work up to towing all kinds of advertisements on a billboard along the water so drivers on 520 could see it. He says he did his homework before he invested in this division of his company, IAlternativeMedia.

Bruce: "Seattle Harbor Patrol, Mercer Island Harbor Patrol, King County Marine Patrol, Washington State Patrol, Coast Guard, DNR, WSDOT, city of Seattle and Mercer Island's Attorney office."

And more. He says all of those agencies told him he would not be violating any laws. Maybe the state Department of Transportation did say that. But now?

Dornfeld: "We don't think that it's likely that there's any areas visible to 520 that are zoned for commercial or industrial uses."

That's Mike Dornfeld with WashDOT's traffic operations. He's talking about the area on the water along the highway. He says issuing a permit? Unlikely. Okay, next Darran Bruce thought he could float a billboard around other parts of the lake, or on Lake Union. Nope. Here's what Seattle's Department of Planning and Development is saying now.

Stevens: "Our shoreline codes don't support this kind of usage over water, especially advertising signage."

That's Bryan Stevens — spokesperson for that department, talking about anywhere at all in Seattle, including half of Lake Washington. Okay — how about the Mercer Island side?

Streirer: "So the current Mercer Island city code does not allow any type of floating billboards or signs within the city's jurisdiction."

That's George Streirer planner for the city of Mercer Island. And then there's the public. Here's Matt Lacey, director of the PoCock Rowing Center on Lake Union, giving one of the more subdued responses to the concept of what he calls commercializing a gorgeous lake.

Lacey: "I don't think it's a very good fit for the culture of the city. I just think it's definitely something you want to avoid."

Bruce, however, wants to be clear — this division of his company is launching. He's not deterred.

Bruce: "Our billboards have multiple uses in multiple different areas. They are amphibious, so they can go on land or water. So the statement that Seattle has sunk our division of our company is not true. We are going to continue moving forward with these products and also developing other products to go out into this area and other areas as well."

Plus, he says, he has gotten calls complimenting him on his innovation and requesting his floating billboard ads service.

I'm Sara Lerner, KUOW News.

© Copyright 2012, KUOW

Related Links

KUOW does not endorse or control the content viewed on these links as they appear now or in the future.