Guide to Obtaining Sign Permits

Signs for San Diego is a licensed C-45 Contractor. We pull permits from the local cities to install monuments, custom LED Signs and many other sign types. Permits are required for most new outdoor signs. There are always at least two city departments involved with permits: The planning Department and the Building department. Other departments that may be involved are the fire department, special area departments like the historic district, Regional architectural groups, and many others. Getting a permit is done with an application and a permit package. Permits take time, while some can be done over the counter, the average now is 4-6 weeks, and some permits take over a year.  There are many aspects of the permit process. Some people make a career out of it, it can be very involved, the following may help get a feel for sign permits

WHO CAN GET A PERMIT:  Sign permits are issued by the responsible Local permitting authority, normally the city. The owner of the property has the right to apply for any permit for their property. In addition, licensed contractors can apply and receive permits. The types of contractors include 1) The C-45 electrical Sign Contractor, 2) the C-10 electrician, 3) The D-42 non-electrical Sign contractor, and the General Contractor.  Curiously people who cannot receive a permit include the business leasing space and wanting the sign, other contractors (the plumber, the carpenter, etc.) and other sign companies that do not have a California license (Major national companies headquartered in different states)

WHO IS THE LOCAL PERMITTING AUTHORITY? Normally it is the city, specifically the planning department front desk, then the building department and then the cashier. But there are a few exceptions.  The US Military base, for example USMC Pendleton – This is a federal reserve and needs no permit. The State of California, the county and the local cities have no authority on a US Military base, none. USMC Pendleton has a base facility function those reviews everything but issues no permits. It is approved, or not.  Airports and Seaports, amazingly the Carlsbad Airport (San Diego Airport and all airports and Seaports) are under the county and not the city’s authority.  Of Course, the Indian reservations, no permits required.  The last group are the city properties – schools, fire departments, public parks and other government run places.

WHAT REQUIRES A PERMIT?  Generally commercial signs on businesses. Political signs, church, school and other non-commercial entities are not under the same rules.  Also, traffic signs, address numbers and some other signs (temporary real-estate signs) are not within the permit scope or partially withing the scope.

WHAT DOES THE PERMIT CONTROL. Permits control the size, placement and type (including mounting method)

WHAT DOES THE PERMIT NOT CONTROL. This is a gray area, because the local permitting authority may attempt to control more than it should, but content. You can say pretty much anything you want, as long as it does not harm the general public. Colors are generally not legally controllable, Federal law trumps local law No state or other jurisdiction may require alteration of a mark, or require that additional trademarks, service marks, trade names or corporate names.

ON SITE VS. OFF SITE Signage: Off-site signage AKA Billboards face much more restrictions

Approval for a permit

SIGN CRITERA vs. SIGN ORDENANCE.  The sign ordinance is the law. It is normally drafted and voted on by the city council. The Sign Criteria, or Sign Program or Sign policy is a document drafted by the company or person that owns the development and submitted to the city, it is contractual. That is when you lease the lease is a purchase of some of the owners’ rights. The limitations on signage are always more restrictive than the city ordinance. If the city violates your rights, you can fight it. But if your landlord has you sign a lease, you are contractually bound. Sign Criteria are contractual limits, not city law.

Signs for San Diego is a licensed C-45 Contractor. We can get a Sign Permit for your project. Need a monuments or Marqee Letters or  custom LED Signs or a message board? A permit is most likely required. Permits are required for most new outdoor signs. Permits are not quick, not free and not a lot of fun.  Need help with your permit?  Give us a call, we can help, Signs for San Diego, 760-730-5118