Signs, awnings, and banners located on private property and portable signs (commonly known as A-Boards), regardless of location, are regulated by Title 32 (known as the sign code) of the Portland City Code. The Bureau of Development Services administers the sign code.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation (503-823-5185) regulates signs located in the street right-of-way, except for portable signs (A-Boards). They also regulate signs attached to utility poles as specified in section 17.64.040.A in Title 17.
Some signs are regulated by the sign code, but are exempt from permit or registration requirements. See section 32.62.010.A of the sign code for a listing of signs that are exempt from permits or registration.
(1) Sign Permits:
Required for installing new permanent signs and for structurally altering or relocating existing permanent signs on private property. Except for certain portable signs, private signs are prohibited in street rights-of-ways. Some private signs may project from a building into the street right-of-way. Indirect lighting (wall washing or backlit) for a sign requires a separate electrical permit. Types of signs include freestanding, monument, projecting, signs on awning, fascia/wall, painted wall/adhered, pitched roof and marquee. Signs are regulated by size (total area), height, placement, construction and wiring. Electrical components within a sign such as internal or neon lighting are covered by the sign permit, but to connect to it a circuit, an electrical permit is required. See section 32.32.010 for the sign standards in the residential and open space zones and section 32.32.020 for sign standards in the commercial, employment and industrial zones.
(2) Awning Permit:
Required for installing a new awning, for adding to an existing awning, or structurally altering or relocating an existing awning on property. Lighting for awnings requires a separate electrical permit. Private awnings may project from buildings into the right-of-way, but must comply with pedestrian clearance and right-of-way extension standards. See section 32.52 for additional information.
(3) Temporary Banner/Balloon Registration: Required for hanging temporary banners and temporary balloon signs on private property. Some smaller banners (32 square feet and under) are exempt from both permit and registration requirements. Banners hung in the street rights-of-ways are regulated by the Portland Bureau of Transportation . They can be reached at (503) 823-5185. See section 32.32.030 K for additional information.
(4) Portable Sign (sometimes known as A-Boards or Sandwich Boards) Registration: Required for all portable signs whether located on private property or in street right-of-way. See section 32.32.030 C.3 and section 32.32.030 G for additional information.
(5) Temporary Fascia/Wall Sign and Temporary Freestanding Sign Registration:
Required for these signs when displayed for more than one year. See section 32.32.030 K for additional information.
Submittal Requirements for a sign or awning permit
1. One (1) Sign/awning permit application per sign
2. Two (2) minimum 8 ½” x 11” elevation drawings for the sign and a listing of existing exterior signs, including:
3. Two (2) copies of calculations showing allowed, existing and proposed sign area
4. Two (2) minimum 8 ½” x 11” copies of a site plan, including:
5. Two (2) copies structural design drawings; and two (2) copies of structural calculations (if applicable).
A. Drawings and Calculations. Drawings and calculations must be prepared by an engineer registered in Oregon. Drawings must include:
B. Pre-approved Structural Designs and Calculations: Structural designs and calculations for certain types and sizes of signs and awnings have been pre-approved by BDS. Although no pre-approved designs are on file for awnings or projecting signs, the pre-approval process is available for these installations as well. Drawings must still be submitted. However, if the drawings show compliance with a pre-approved structural design, generally structural plan review will not be required. Drawings prepared and sealed/stamped by an engineer are not required for pre-approved structural designs. Pre-approved structural designs are limited to:
Submittal requirements for a temporary banner registration:
Submittal requirements for a temporary fascia, freestanding or balloon sign registration:
Submittal requirements for a portable (A-Board) sign:
Submit the permit application to the Development Services Center in person or by mail.
When the proposed sign or awning has been determined to meet all requirements, fees are due and the permit or registration will be issued. Portable signs do not require a review process; application and fees should be submitted together.
Permit applications or registrations may be submitted to the Development Services Center by mail or in person. Permit applications may be submitted by mail or in person.
BDS staff in the Development Services Center will check the proposed sign or awning for its consistency with the Sign Code standards applicable to the zoning and use of the proposed sign location. Development Services Center staff will also determine if additional reviews are needed for compliance with land use standards (example: adjustment review or design review) or additional structural standards.
The permit will be issued when all reviews are complete, the proposed sign is approved, and fees are paid.
Inspections are required for all sign and awning permits. Call for inspections at the following points in the project:
To request an inspection , call (503) 823-7000 and select:
A special inspection may be required for complex signs as specified in the Oregon Structural Specialty Code. Notice will be given to the applicant as part of the engineering review process. When a special inspection is required, it must be performed by a City of Portland certified testing agency. For more information about special inspections call (503) 823-7782.
What is a sign?
32.22.020.YY. Sign. Materials placed or constructed, or light projected, that (1) conveys a message or image and (2) is used to inform or attract the attention of the public. Some examples of ‘signs’ are materials or lights meeting the definition of the preceding sentence and which are commonly referred to as signs, placards, A-boards, posters, billboards, murals, diagrams, banners, flags, or projected slides, images or holograms. The scope of the term ‘sign’ does not depend on the content of the message or image conveyed.
This does include text on awnings, exterior vinyl, placards, or painted imagery.
What is the primary building wall?
32.22.020.NN. Primary building walls. Any exterior building wall that faces a street and contains a public entrance to the occupant's premises or tenant space. If an individual tenant space does not have a street facing wall or does not have a street facing wall containing a public entrance, then the primary building wall for that individual tenant space is any wall containing a public entrance that faces a parking area on the site. See Figure 1.
Figure 1: Primary and Secondary Building Walls
How long is the review time?
The turnaround goal is 7-10 business days.
Why does a sign inventory need to be provided?
Allowable signage is based upon a ratio of either 1 sq. ft. per 1 ft. of primary building wall or 1.5 sq. ft. per 1 ft. of primary building wall depending on if there is a freestanding sign on the same street frontage. If the existing signage at site is over the allowable a Land Use Review will be required for the additional signage.
Scenario 1: Proposal is for a 50 sq. ft. blade sign on East Elevation Way. There is a freestanding sign located on that street frontage and the primary building wall is 40 feet.
Primary building wall = 40’ linear feet
Allowable signage = 40 sq. ft.
Proposal = 50 sq. ft.
In this case that is 10 sq. ft. over the allowable (40 minus 50 equals negative 10). The sign will need to be reduced or a Land Use decision is required.
Scenario 2: Proposal is for a 32 sq. ft. fascia sign on an existing tenant space. There is no freestanding sign at site and the primary building wall 40 feet. There is an existing 32 sq ft. blade sign.
Primary building wall = 40’ linear feet
Allowable signage = 60 sq. ft.
Existing signage = 32 sq. ft.
Proposal = 32 sq. ft.
Total = 64 sq. ft.
In this case that is 4 sq. ft. over the allowable signage (60 minus 64 equals negative 4).
Scenario 3: Proposal is for 50 sq. ft. of text on a fabric awning. There is a freestanding sign at site and the primary building wall 100 feet. There is an existing 32 sq. ft. blade sign.
Primary building wall = 100’ linear feet
Allowable signage = 100 sq. ft.
Existing signage = 32 sq. ft.
Proposal = 50 sq. ft.
Total = 82 sq. ft.
Remainder = 18 sq. ft.
In this case there is enough primary building wall for the additional signage.
Can the remainder of the tenant space signage be used for the Landlord?
That is on a case by case basis as it is dependent on the location of the primary building and secondary building walls at the site. Most times the answer is no based upon site conditions, but it is up to the applicant to provide the information for City staff to review. Please refer to 32.32.030.E.
Sign Specialist for signs, awnings and banners located on private property - 503-823-7996
Sign Specialist for portable (A-Board) signs only - 503-823-2633
Mail / Location:
City of Portland
Bureau of Development Services
1900 SW 4th Ave, Suite 5000
Portland, OR 97201