Sign Regulations

A sign can be anything visible to the public which directs attention to some person, place or thing. The important thing to remember is to check for any permit requirements before ordering any sign or devices which may attract attention. This includes replacing parts of existing signs. Both the lettering and the materials or structures which support it are signs.


The City recognizes that signage is vital to existing and proposed businesses. It is the intent and purpose of the sign regulations to protect an important aspect of the economic base of the City by preventing the destruction of our natural beauty and environment. The environment is of great value to our residents and also serves to attract non-residents to the City.

Sign regulations are designed to:
  • Preserve and enhance the appearance of the City of Santa Rosa and protect our investment in buildings and open space
  • Encourage sound signing practices for business identification and public information
  • Prevent and eliminate excessive and confusing sign displays
  • Eliminate hazards to motorists and pedestrians brought about by distracting and inappropriate sign displays
  • Ensure that commercial signing is used primarily as identification and not as advertising

Allowed Signs


Signs may either be attached to the building or a freestanding (monument) type. The use of individual letters within the sign is encouraged.


Three signs (only one of which may be freestanding) may be allowed except as noted below:
  • An additional street frontage (e.g. a corner) may qualify for an additional attached or freestanding sign
  • For multiple tenant situations each tenant in the center, building or complex is allowed one sign. All locations including building complexes and shopping centers are limited to one freestanding sign per street frontage
  • A logo is a form of a sign. If it is used separately from the main identification, it will be counted as a sign


The maximum area of signage allowed is one square foot for each linear foot of lot frontage (not building frontage) or one hundred square feet, whichever is less.
  • The total sign area of shopping centers may exceed the 100 square foot maximum. To allow equitable signage for all tenants, a Sign Program is required. See staff for details.
  • The total area approved for each sign is less than the maximum allowed by code in most cases. This is due to the fact that the size of the sign must be in proportion to the scale of the building.


Attached signs may not be located above the eave line of the building. Such signs need to be attached to the building wall or an architectural facia band. Freestanding signs must be a minimum of five feet behind the sidewalk or property line, whichever is closer to the building.


Freestanding signs are typically four to six feet high. Because signs are measured from the top of the curb, however, the code specifies a nine foot maximum height to allow for placement on slopes.


When there is more than one tenant in a development or building, a Sign Program is generally required. Sign Programs are established to provide consistent and equitable signing for all tenants in a complex or development.


Do not order signs without first obtaining a permit. All nonconforming signs must be brought into conformance anytime a change is made. A permit is required to reface a sign.

Prohibited Signs

  • A sign which no longer applies to the property where it is located is considered an abandoned sign. Such signs shall be removed along with any supporting structure
  • Signs within the public right-of-way or on public property including signs placed on poles, utility boxes, sidewalks or trees. Such signs are prohibited because of the clutter, confusion, distractions, litter or damage they may cause. Due to the damage caused by illegal signs, a fine of one hundred ($100) dollars per sign can be assessed in addition to the cost of removing the signs and repairing any damage caused by such signs.
  • Moving signs including balloons, inflatable objects, streamers, pennants, strings of lights or animated signs are also prohibited
  • On-site advertisements are not allowed. List of products or services are advertisements and are not allowed. A product or service may be allowed when it is essential to the identification of the business.
  • Off-site signs are signs which identify, advertise, or promote something located elsewhere. They are prohibited.
  • A-frame or other portable signs are not allowed outside buildings. Such signs may be removed by the City from public property without notice. Notice is given prior to removing portable signs in other instances.
  • Roof signs are not allowed. This includes signs above the eave line unless they are architecturally made a part of the building. However, no sign may be located above the main roof line.
  • Signs that are obscene, create hazards, obstruct visibility or imitate official government signs, such as "stop" signs, are prohibited

Get a Permit

Sign Permit

Visit the Planning Application Portal to review and complete the necessary Sign Permit Application.

Building Permit

A Building Permit (PDF) is required for sign installation. Application forms are available in the Department of Community Development at City Hall. Freestanding signs over six feet tall require engineered calculations. A plan check fee will be required for these signs. Please note that electric signs require a qualified testing lab listing. See the building permit brochure for other requirements. Please check with the counter staff for current fees.

When Permits Are Not Required

Some signs do not require permits, provided they meet certain conditions, such as size and number of signs. This pamphlet lists the categories, but you should check the code for limitations.
  • Commemorative signs
  • Construction signs
  • Credit card or association membership signs
  • Interior signs, provided they are directed to the inside
  • On-site agricultural signs
  • On-site directional signs without identification or advertising
  • Public interest signs
  • Real estate signs up to certain sizes
  • Seasonal decorations without advertising
  • Signs required by law or government signs
  • Street numbers and/or names
  • Temporary signs with size and time limits 

Design Review Guidelines

Design Review Guidelines apply to all signs. Please check these guidelines as they apply to signs. They are available at Room 3, Department of Community Development, City Hall.


View the Design Review Brochure (PDF).