Chapter 18.06


18.06.010    Authority, purpose, scope and intent.

18.06.020    Basic policies.

18.06.030    Prohibited signs.

18.06.040    Traditional public forum areas.

18.06.050    Official signs.

18.06.060    Encroachments.

18.06.070    Billboards.

18.06.080    Enforcement.

18.06.010 Authority, purpose, scope and intent.

A.    Authority. This chapter may be referred to as the city property sign ordinance. It is adopted pursuant to the city’s general and police powers, property rights, Government Code Sections 65850(b), 38774 and 38775, Business and Professions Code Section 5200 et seq., and Penal Code Section 556 et seq.

B.    Capacity. In adopting this chapter, the city acts in its proprietary capacity as to city property, as defined herein, and also pursuant to its police powers as to portions of the public right-of-way in which the fee title is not held by the city.

C.    Scope. This chapter states the intent, rules, regulations, and procedures regarding placement of signs on city property, as defined herein. This chapter does not apply when a special event is subject to a special event permit.

D.    Intent. The city declares its intent that all city property shall not function as a designated or limited public forum for sign display, unless some specific portion of city property is identified as a public forum of one particular type by some formal action of the council; in such case, the declaration as to public forum type shall apply strictly and only to the specified area and the specified time period. By adopting this chapter, the city council intends to balance the rights of free speech, protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and corollary provisions of the California Constitution, against the city’s own speech rights, its own property rights, and the public interests in reducing the visual clutter and safety risks that can result from excessive or inappropriate signage. The purposes and intents of this chapter include, but are not limited to:

1.    To accommodate the need for orderly expression in traditional public forum areas, such as streets, parks and sidewalks;

2.    To preserve and enhance the aesthetic appearance and natural beauty of the city;

3.    To serve the public interest in safety, both pedestrian and traffic;

4.    To safeguard and protect the public health, safety, and welfare through appropriate prohibitions, regulations, and controls on the design, location, and maintenance of signs on city property;

5.    To enhance the visual attractiveness of the city, for residents and visitors;

6.    To advance the goals, policies and programs of the general plan; and

7.    To allow private parties to place signs on certain areas of city property, subject to the rules and policies stated herein. (Ord. 2015-003 § 1 (part), 2015)

18.06.020 Basic policies.

A.    Compliance Required. As to private parties and governmental units other than the city of San Pablo, only signs authorized by this chapter may be built, displayed, erected or maintained on city property. Authorization shall take the form of a permit or an exemption from the permit requirement as explicitly stated herein.

B.    City’s Messages. Nothing in this chapter limits in any way the city’s ability to use city property for the expression of its own messages.

C.    Enforcement. The development services manager, public works director, code enforcement supervisor, or designees, are authorized to enforce and administer the provisions of this chapter. Any private party sign placed on city property or in the public right-of-way in violation of city policy is a trespass, and a public nuisance, and may be summarily abated by the city. Such unauthorized signs on city property also constitute misdemeanors under Penal Code Section 556.

D.    Interpretations. Interpretations of this policy shall be made initially by the development services manager or designee, whose decision may be appealed to the planning commission and then the city council under the appeal procedures set forth in Chapter 18.04. (Ord. 2015-003 § 1 (part), 2015)

18.06.030 Prohibited signs.

Except as expressly allowed by a provision of this title, or another provision of law, private parties may not display or post signs on public property or in the public right-of-way, including but not limited to the following prohibited signs:

A.    Placards, posters, announcements, A-frame/H-frame/I-frame signs, and other signs posted or attached to any fence, pole, tree or any other object in the public right-of-way, except those placed or authorized by the city.

B.    Mobile billboards and billboard vehicles.

C.    Signs encroaching more than six inches from the face of a building into a public right-of-way, when the sign or individual sign letters are mounted directly on the face of a building at the property line, except where allowed by an adopted sign program pursuant to Section 18.04.100. Any sign that would encroach into the public right-of-way shall first obtain an encroachment permit from the public works department. The sign must be mounted so as to provide a ground clearance of at least eight vertical feet. The message substitution policy of the regulatory sign ordinance, Chapter 18.04, shall apply to signs authorized by this section.

D.    Bus bench or bus shelter signs, except as exempted by Section 18.04.060.

E.    Commercial Mascots. All commercial signs held, posted or attended by commercial mascots on public property, and all persons “spinning” signs on public property. (Ord. 2015-003 § 1 (part), 2015)

18.06.040 Traditional public forum areas.

A.    Applicability. This section applies only in traditional public forum areas as defined herein.

B.    Display Right. In an area qualifying as a traditional public forum, private persons may display handheld signs expressing noncommercial messages that are within the protection of the First Amendment, without a permit, but subject to:

1.    The signs must be personally held by a person, or personally attended by one or more persons;

2.    Inanimate signs which are left unattended may not be displayed under this section, regardless of the type of message they may display;

3.    The signs may be displayed only during the time period of sunrise to thirty minutes after sunset, except on occasions when the San Pablo city council or planning commission is holding a public hearing or meeting; on such occasions, the display period is extended to thirty minutes after such meeting is officially adjourned;

4.    The maximum aggregate area of all signs held by a single person is eight square feet, measured one side only. For purposes of this rule, apparel and other aspects of personal appearance do not count towards the maximum aggregate sign area;

5.    The maximum area of any one sign that is personally held or attended by two or more persons is thirty-two square feet, measured one side only;

6.    The sign must have no more than two display faces and may not be inflatable or air-activated;

7.    In order to serve the city’s interests in traffic flow and safety, persons displaying signs pursuant to this section may not stand in any vehicular traffic lane when a roadway is open for use by vehicles, and persons displaying signs on public sidewalks must give at least five feet width clearance for pedestrians to pass by. Signs and persons holding signs may not block the free and clear vision of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians;

8.    So long as the foregoing rules are followed, no permit is required for display of signs authorized by this section. This section does not authorize or prohibit personally held signs displayed inside city buildings during public meetings. Such signs may be regulated by resolution or order of the city council;

9.    This subsection does not authorize the display of commercial messages on city property, nor does it authorize the posting of inanimate signs on city property, regardless of message type.

C.    Prohibited Sign Display. Other than as stated in subsection B of this section, or other explicit provisions of this chapter or Chapter 18.04, no private party signs may be mounted, erected, maintained, or displayed on city property. Without limitation, snipe signs and commercial mascots may not be displayed on city property or the public right-of-way. (Ord. 2015-003 § 1 (part), 2015)

18.06.050 Official signs.

The following signs may be erected and displayed on city property subject to the rules set forth herein. No permit is required for the signs authorized by this section. Nothing in this chapter limits in any way the city’s ability to use city property for the expression of its own messages.

A.    Traffic control and traffic directional signs erected or authorized by the city or another governmental unit;

B.    Official notices required or authorized by law;

C.    Signs placed by the city in furtherance of its governmental or proprietary functions;

D.    No temporary sign or banner shall extend over or into a street, alley, sidewalk or other public place except those signs placed by the city for the purpose of advertising civic events or messages, and except as set forth in subsection E of this section;

E.    Special Event Directional Signs. The promoters of special events approved by the city may place on city property public events banners, street banners, directional signs and identification signs as approved by the special event permit. (Ord. 2015-003 § 1 (part), 2015)

18.06.060 Encroachments.

With the exception of specific signs authorized in Chapter 18.04, signs that are mounted on private property but that project over the public right-of-way, or otherwise extend into or over city property, are authorized only when all of the following conditions are satisfied:

A.    The sign must satisfy all requirements of Chapter 18.04;

B.    The sign may not project more than four feet from a building face nor project to a distance nearer than two feet from the street curb;

C.    The sign must be mounted so as to provide a ground clearance of at least eight vertical feet;

D.    The message substitution policy of the sign ordinance, Section 18.04.020(F), shall apply to signs authorized by this section;

E.    An encroachment permit must be issued before the sign is installed. (Ord. 2015-003 § 1 (part), 2015)

18.06.070 Billboards.

A.    Notwithstanding anything in the San Pablo Municipal Code to the contrary, the city council or local successor agency (LSA) may enter into agreements with one or more private parties to erect, maintain and/or operate new billboards on city or LSA property, as provided under this chapter.

B.    No person, firm, or corporation may authorize, erect, construct, maintain, move, alter, change, place, suspend or attach any new billboards on city property pursuant to this chapter without first entering into an agreement with the city in accordance with this chapter.

C.    Any or all of new billboards authorized on city property under this chapter may be digital signs and/or freestanding signs. New billboards authorized on city property are subject to the following additional findings:

1.    The proposed billboard must be consistent with the California Outdoor Advertising Act and the Federal Highway Beautification Act, as applicable;

2.    The billboard must be oriented primarily for viewing from the adjacent freeway;

3.    The billboard design and orientation takes into account visibility from surrounding residential neighborhoods. (Ord. 2015-003 § 1 (part), 2015)

18.06.080 Enforcement.

Unless no permit is required pursuant to this policy, any unauthorized, unapproved, nonexempt sign on city property is subject to immediate removal and impoundment without notice. Impounded signs will be held for thirty days. The city will make reasonable attempts to contact the sign owner and provide the owner with ten days’ notice to reclaim the sign upon recovery of city’s costs. Impounded signs, which remain unclaimed after thirty days, may be disposed of in any manner whatsoever at the discretion of the city. (Ord. 2015-003 § 1 (part), 2015)