Help GM Catalog the Worst Signs in the Neighborhood

Right now, GM is working on an effort in behalf of CAG to address some of the poor signage in the neighborhood. You may not realize it, but every single sign in Georgetown needs a permit. Depending on how long that sign is up, that permit needs to be approved by either the D.C. Historic Preservation Office (for signs up 30 days or less) or the Old Georgetown Board (for signs up 30 days or more).

In practice, this is a rule observed mostly in the breach. While most significant store signs do go through the proper approval process, most of the cheap and (frankly) ugly signs like the ones above don’t. So to address the proliferation of non-permitted signs, CAG is working with the BID and other to educate the storekeepers about the rules (see this circular) and to catalog the worst offenders for reporting to the Historical Preservation Office.

Since there are so few enforcement officers at the HPO, it’s up to others to report violations to them. So that’s what CAG’s in the process of doing. The are some of the categories of non-permitted signs that CAG is specifically targeting:

  • Billboards (like the ones that used to grace EastBanc’s buildings on the west end of M St.)
  • Signs in the public space (e.g. signs on the Whitehurst Freeway supports)
  • Sandwich boards blocking the sidewalk (this one’s actually a DDOT issue, and it’s a tad tricky since the regs may be changing, but nonetheless, they can be a big problem in Georgetown and the problem ones ought to be addressed)
  • Other bad non-permitted signs (e.g. neon signs, things like the Garfield thing above, all those fake “GOING OUT OF BUSINESS” signs, etc.)

So to that end, if there are any particularly bad signs that you’d like the HPO to take a look at, take a photo and send it to editor(at)Georgetownmetropolitan(dot)com, or just mention it in the comments.


Filed under Retail

15 responses to “Help GM Catalog the Worst Signs in the Neighborhood

  1. Anti ANC

    I think unless the sign is a major eyesore, no one should really care. Georgetown doesnt need any more empty spaces and we need to support the retailers no matter what!

  2. asuka

    So, what is it that you *like* about Georgetown?

  3. Kate Whitmore

    I agree, GM. Hideous signs don’t benefit our retailers and make Georgetown look like a dump. Retailers who operate in historic neighborhoods need to play by the rules. Alexandria and Annapolis must have more oversight because my impression is that signs there generally blend in well. The DC sign vetting process should be easy and quick, so if that is the obstacle let’s puts pressure n the OGB and DCHPO to streamline it.

  4. The dude who brings his guitar and loudly sings those really awful songs in Rose Park

    There has been a trend on this blog of negativity and shame on Georgetown and its residents in recent months…

    – Shame on specific, listed residents for not paying taxes on time
    – Shame on specific, named/photographed residents for not shoveling snow
    – Shame on Mark Ein for lack of stewardship of Katherine Graham’s house
    – Shame on GU for lack of graveyard upkeep
    – Shame on landlords for increasing rent
    – Shame on businesses for hanging signs of cartoon cats
    – Shame on me for playing guitar in the park

    Perhaps with Spring coming you can focus more on what is good about Georgetown, its residents, businesses, and institutions.

  5. Pingback: The worst signs in Georgetown |

  6. Mez

    Absolutely agree…Georgetown used to be charming but now can be alarming. Rules should be enforced for all, not just a few.

  7. carol Joynt


    They should not be permitted, because they are uniformly a lie. They cheapen the retail environment, aka, the neighborhood.

  8. Old Georgetowner

    I think Carol is half right — those places on Wisconsin that are perennially promising to Go Out Of Business never do are engaged in deceptive practices. The bigger problem, which no one ever talks about, is that they never seem to do much business — certainly not enough to generate profits sufficient to pay their rent. So how do they manage?

    P.S. GM — Keep it up. You’re annoying all the right people.

  9. Pingback: The worst signs in Georgetown | | The Harrell Group, LLCThe Harrell Group, LLC

  10. asuka

    @The dude

    My sentiments exactly.

    @Old Georgetowner

    They manage by being fronts. They are laundries, and its been going on for decades. I thought you’d been here since before I was born? So how do you not know this?

  11. RNM

    I keep wanting to see a sign for:
    Our Annual Going Out of Business Sale

    Just to see if anyone would enjoy the joke.

    And while there are some obnoxious signs out there…I have to agree that this blog seems to have become a long running whine about what the hoy polloy are doing to Georgetown. This neighborhood has done nothing but become more gentrified in the last 20 years that I have been here. We live in a city, a little grit is part of that…and the grit is needed to make the pearl.

    So maybe a few more positive threads or this will just end up being a circle of people complaining about how bad the neighborhood they CHOOSE to live in is. Life it too short to run around worrying about everything…

  12. Old Georgetowner


    I thought it would be apparent from what I wrote that I know very well what those shops are about.

    But I also thought it rude to GM to call someone else a crook on his website.

    P.S. You sound like someone in his twenties. But even if you’re as old as 40, I’ve been here longer.

  13. 5 year resident

    By nature, negativity outweighs positivity, right or wrong. GM, I appreciate your vigilance and your reporting.

  14. J Utah

    Sign wars. What a great allocation of resources . . . .

  15. GB

    How about the counterfeit purse cart that’s set up every afternoon on Prospect by Wisconsin across from the Apple store? What can we do about that? And those laundries between O and P Streets… it’s insane that the CAG has seemed to care more about stripping students’ late-night pizza access for the past few years than ridding Georgetown of actual nefarious activity.

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