General Advertising Sign Program
The Planning Department's General Advertising Sign Program began in 2006 on passage of legislation amending the Planning Code to improve the monitoring of general advertising signs and the enforcement of general advertising sign regulations in San Francisco. The primary goals of the program are to build and maintain an inventory of general advertising signs, correct outstanding violations, remove unlawful signs, and facilitate the relocation of existing lawful signs.
Key Legislative and Policy Provisions
Section 602.7 of the Planning Code defines a general advertising sign as "a sign, legally erected prior to the effective date of Section 611 of this Code [March 5, 2002], which directs attention to a business, commodity, industry or other activity which is sold, offered or conducted elsewhere than on the premises upon which sign is located, or to which it is affixed, and which is sold, offered or conducted on such premises only incidentally if at all."
Section 604 of the Planning Code requires that every general advertising sign, including painted and vinyl signs, must have a building permit issued by the City and County of San Francisco. This requirement is independent of any other permit requirements, such as electrical permits or permits issued by the California Department of Transportation.
Section 604.1 of the Planning Code requires that every general advertising sign must bear the name of the sign company that owns or operates the sign, the building permit number and the permitted sign dimensions. These placards must be displayed on the face or edge of the sign at all times and must be visible from the street.
Section 604.2 of the Planning Code requires that every entity that owns (or operates on behalf of the owner) a general advertising sign in the City must submit to the Planning Department a complete and accurate inventory of all of its signs. The initial inventories were to be submitted no later than October 23, 2006 and they must be kept current by submitting inventory updates within 30 days of any change in inventory status. It also requires initial and annual sign registration fees.
Section 610 of the Planning Code establishes penalties and methods of enforcement against violations as well as a reconsideration process through an administrative hearing. Penalties for violations accrue daily after an initial grace period. Penalties range from $100 per day to $2,500 per day based on sign size.
Section 611 of the Planning Code prohibits, as of March 5, 2002, all new general advertising signs within the City, except on motor vehicles and in the public right-of-way. It also provides a process whereby existing lawful signs may be relocated.
Resolution 17258 adopted by the Planning Commission on June 8, 2006, sets forth criteria for determining the legal status of general advertising signs.
Filing a Complaint
If you see a new sign being installed on private property that you suspect is an illegal general advertising sign and it is not within in the public right-of-way, either contact the program coordinator (see contact below) or call the 24-hour complaint hotline at (415) 575-6863. Complaints may be made anonymously. Please provide a detailed description of the sign, including its exact location. Provide your contact information if you would like to be notified.
For complaints involving signage within the public right-of-way and not affixed to private property, contact the Department of Public Works Bureau of Street Use and Mapping at (415) 554-5810.
Applications and Forms
- General Advertising Sign Relocation Application
- General Advertising Sign Request for Reconsideration Application
- General Advertising Sign Inventory Update Application
Publications and Reports
- 1st Annual Report March 6, 2008
- 2nd Annual Report November 20, 2008
- 3rd Annual Report November 19, 2009
- 4th Annual Report February 17, 2011
- 5th Annual Report April 12, 2012
General Advertising Sign Map
The Planning Department has created an interactive map that indicates the approximate locations and displays photos of general advertising signs in San Francisco as well as potential sign relocation sites. The map is available for public use and is provided as a tool to help identify general advertising signs throughout the City. To use the map, click here.
San Francisco Planning Department
1650 Mission Street, Suite 400
San Francisco, CA 94103