Burt M. Polson | Napa Valley and Vallejo's Commercial Real Estate Broker

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I Saw the Sign

Signs are everywhere. Sometimes obtrusive, but oftentimes they just blend into their surroundings. The city has an ordinance addressing signage on commercial buildings.

A few years ago, a company leased an office building and the tenant decided the current signage was not enough. The tenant spent several tens of thousands of dollars to install a monument sign between the street and his building in the landscape area. The city caught wind and red flagged the sign

because it was not only done without permits, but did not meet the ordinance guidelines. I am unsure why the out-of-town sign company did not request a sign permit or why the tenant did not ask permission of the landlord. Unfortunately, the monument sign was non-compliant and had to be removed.

All commercial signs require approval from the city planning staff provided the characteristics of the sign fits within the parameters set. Also required is the approval of the property owner. This staff level plan check is at no cost, but you do need to provide a set of plans describing the sign as well as a parcel plat map and building elevations. 

If the sign you desire does not fit in the standard parameters you will require a sign permit. To start this process will cost a minimum of $1,000 to $2,000. You will need 10 complete architectural drawings including other documentation and mailing labels of all property owners within a 500 foot radius all at an additional cost. This is a full use permit process where the public would be able to comment on your sign and all city departments must approve the permit as well as the planning commission. These costs are all before you even purchase and install the sign.

Many factors are considered besides the size of the sign. Location, placement, illumination, reflectivity, size of lettering and space around the sign are addressed.

Several calculations are involved as well to determine the maximum height and overall size. The total number of signs is also restricted. The size of a wall sign cannot exceed 10% of the entire building face.

Additionally, many shopping centers and office complexes have their own sign standards that must be complied with and you could have special districts that have their own standards.

The sign ordinance even addresses temporary signs like real estate signs and garage sale signs. An open house sign cannot exceed four square feet in size and must be removed immediately after the open house is over. “For sale” and “for lease” signs have a limit of two, cannot exceed eight square feet total and must be removed 15 days after the transaction is completed. 

One more interested fact, did you know the posting of garage sale signs is illegal? You are only allowed to have one sign at the site of the garage sale and only during the hours of the sale and this sign is limited to four square feet in size and four feet in height. 

I would love to hear your comments about signs in Napa. Feel free to use the comment section below.

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