Chapter 10

Sign Standards

11-010-01: Purpose

1. To protect the health, safety, property and welfare of the public;

2. To provide for the neat, clean, orderly and attractive appearance of the community;

3. To improve the effectiveness of signs;

4. To provide for safe construction, location, erection and maintenance of signs; and

5. To minimize adverse visual safety factors to the traveling public.

11-010-02: Sign Definitions

This Section contains definitions for types of signs and parts of signs.

1. Types Of Signs:

A. Animated Sign: Any sign that uses movement or change of lighting to depict action or to create a special effect or scene or the illusion of movement. A sign utilizing static message displays as allowed in 11-010-05.6 shall not be considered animated.

B. Awning, Canopy, or Marquee: Any shelter or decorative dimensional shape extending from the exterior surface of a building constructed of a supporting framework and covered with non-rigid materials.

C. Awning, Canopy or Marquee Sign: The copy area or separate background area attached to an awning, canopy or marquee.

D. Banner: A flexible substrate on which copy or graphics may be displayed.

E. Construction Sign: Any sign that warns of construction or demolition or that describes a construction project and indicates the builder, architect, or others involved.

F. Directional Sign: A sign that is designed and erected for the purpose of providing direction for pedestrian or vehicular traffic.

G. Electronic Message Display: A sign or portion thereof capable of displaying words, symbols, figures or images that can be electronically or mechanically changed by remote or automatic means.

H. Free-Standing Sign: A sign supported by a column, pole, foundation, pedestal or other structure in or upon the ground.

I. Frame: A complete, static display screen on an electronic message display.

J. Frame Effect: A visual effect on an electronic message display applied to a single frame.

K. Height of Sign: The distance from the ground supporting the sign to the highest point of the sign. A landscape berm or other structure erected to support the sign shall be measured as part of the height. If the street to which the sign is oriented is higher than the grade at the base of the sign, then the street elevation shall be used in determining the permitted height.

L. Mansard: A sloped roof-like projection that is attached to an exterior building wall or facade.

M. Monument Sign: A free-standing sign in which the sign face is supported by a continuous and solid base which extends the full length of the sign face or is supported by posts not more than six inches above the ground on which the sign face is mounted.

N. Nit: A luminance unit equal to one candela (one candle) per square meter measured perpendicular to the rays from the source.

O. Projecting Sign: A sign other than a wall sign, which projects from and is supported by a wall of building or other structure.

P. Roof Sign: A sign erected on the roof of a building. Signs mounted on mansard facades, eaves and architectural projections such as canopies or marquees shall not be considered to be roof signs.

Q. Sign: Any device visible from a public right of way that displays either commercial or noncommercial messages by means of graphic presentation of alphabetic or pictorial symbols or representations. Noncommercial flags or any flags displayed from flagpoles or staffs will not be considered signs.

R. Sign Area: The area comprising the message portion of a sign, not including the supporting structure. When computing the area of sign background, only the face or faces, which may be seen from one direction at one time, shall be considered. It is computed by measuring the area enclosed by straight lines drawn around the extremities of the text or graphics.

S. Sign Structure: Any structure that supports a sign, including any decorative cover.

T. Temporary Sign: A sign that is used only temporarily and is not permanently mounted or embedded in the ground.

U. Wall Sign: A sign that is affixed to or painted on an exterior wall of a building or structure.

V. Window Sign: A sign affixed to the surface of a window that is intended to be viewed from the public right of way or from adjacent property.

11-010-03: General Sign Regulations

1. Permit Required: Unless specifically exempted, a permit must be obtained from the Planning Director for the erection and installation of any sign. Exemption from the need for a permit shall not relieve the responsibility to erect and maintain signs in a safe manner and in conformance with all other provisions of these regulations. Permits are not required for change of copy, repainting, or other normal maintenance and repair. Application shall be made on a form provided by the Planning Division. The permit shall be approved or denied within five working days and shall be valid for a period of one year.

2. Signs Not Regulated: An application for a sign not regulated herein shall be considered by the Director as to whether the sign is allowed, prohibited or whether a variance or conditional use permit may be required.

3. Abandoned Sign: Any on-premise sign associated with a building or business that has been vacant and unoccupied for at least 6 months, or any sign no longer associated with the use on the property shall be deemed abandoned. An abandoned sign is prohibited.

4. Maintenance And Repair: Signs shall be maintained in a state of good appearance, safety and repair.

5. Blanketing Of Signs: No sign shall be erected in the same horizontal plane with other signs unless spaced at least 25 feet apart.

6. Traffic Visibility: Signs shall not be permitted in the clear vision triangle as defined in this Code. Signs shall not be erected at any intersection so as to obstruct clear vision, or at any location where they may interfere with or obstruct the view of traffic.

7. Gateway Streets: A free-standing sign oriented to a gateway street may be regulated differently (see 11-010-04). The following are gateway streets:

A. Capitol Boulevard.

B. Vista Avenue, 1-84 north.

C. Broadway Ave., I-84 north.

D. State Street, State Capitol to Highway 55.

E. Myrtle Street.

F. Front Street.

G. Federal Way, Capitol Blvd. to Bergeson.

H. Warm Springs Avenue.

I. Park Center Boulevard.

8. Design Guidelines For All Signs:

A. Signs are to be integrated with and harmonious to the building and site.

B. Pole support structures shall be covered.

C. Signs shall complement the architectural style of the building.

9. Legal Nonconforming:

A. Any non-temporary sign legally existing at the time of the passage of this ordinance that does not conform in use, location, height or size shall be considered legal nonconforming.

B. Legal nonconforming signs may not be structurally altered, moved, or replaced without being brought into conformance with the provisions of this Code. Routine maintenance and repair is allowed.

C. Copy changes and sign face changes that use similar materials are allowed.

D. If the sign is abandoned or the use associated with the sign is changed, the sign shall lose its nonconforming status and be removed or brought into compliance.

E. Violation of these provisions shall result in the sign losing its legal nonconforming status.

10. Sign Variance: Variances from sign standards may be granted in accordance with Section 11-03-04.14.

11. Adjacent To Residential Zones: Signs in non-residential zones shall not be located within 50 feet of a residential zone.

12. Street Trees: Trees may not be topped or removed to facilitate better view of signs.

13. Signs For Which A Permit Is Not Required: The following shall be exempt from the provisions of this chapter except that no sign shall be exempt from the requirement to maintain clear vision triangles.

A. Official notices authorized by a court, public body or public safety official.

B. Directional, warning or information signs authorized by a government.

C. Memorial plaques, building identification signs and building cornerstones when cut or carved into a masonry surface or when made an integral part of the building or structure.

D. The flag of government or noncommercial institution, such as a school, and business identification flags.

E. Religious symbols and seasonal decorations.

F. Works of art containing no form of advertising.

G. Street address signs and combination nameplate and street address signs that contain no advertising copy and which do not exceed 6 square feet in area.

H. Signs oriented only to the property on which they are located and which are not visible from the public right of way.

I. Signs in the display windows of a business which are incorporated in a display of merchandise.

J. "No Trespassing," "No Dumping" or similar signs not to exceed one and one-half square feet in area and not exceeding four per parcel.

14. Prohibited Signs: The following are prohibited in all districts:

A. Non-permitted signs or posters that are visible from a public way and are affixed to walls, buildings, trees, poles, fences, bridges or other structures.

B. Signs placed on any street right of way, sidewalk, pole, bridge or tree, unless specifically permitted herein. Such signs may be deemed nuisances and removed by the City without prior notice.

C. Banners, pennants, strings of lights, ribbons, streamers, balloons or similar devices that call attention rather than contribute to the business decor except as maybe specifically permitted by this chapter.

D. Portable signs except those allowed as temporary signs and those allowed in the C-5 district.

E. Signs whose lighting, location or appearance would cause such signs to have the appearance of traffic safety signs and lights, or municipal vehicle warnings.

F. Any sign attached to or placed on a vehicle or trailer that is parked on public or private property or driven on public streets, except for signs meeting the following:

(1) The primary purpose of such a vehicle or trailer is not the display of signs.

(2) The signs are magnetic, decals or painted upon an integral part of the vehicle or equipment.

(3) The vehicle or trailer is in operating condition, currently registered and licensed to operate on public streets, and actively used or available for use in the daily function of the business to which such signs relate.

G. Roof signs.

H. Animated signs.

I. Strobe lights and flashing lights.

J. Any sort of sign used to advertise or display any visually communicated message by letter or by picture, of any kind, on any seating bench, or in direct connection with any bench unless authorized by the regional public transportation system authority as permitted from the Director.

11-010-04: On-premise Signs

1. Accessory On-Premise Signs:

A. Wall Signs: Wall signs may be displayed in accordance with the standards set forth in Table 11-010.1 and the following:

(1) Wall signs shall not project above the wall.

(2) Wall signs shall face the street or streets which the building faces, except that a sign on a building wall in a commercial, office or industrial zone that does not face a street may be permitted according to the following:

(a) The sign background area may be borrowed from that allowed on the building wall facing the street; and

(b) The sign area may not exceed 10% of the building wall; and

(c) The adjoining property is zoned commercial, office or industrial.

(3) Number Allowed: In commercial, office and industrial zones the area allowed may be divided among multiple signs.

Table 11-010.1: Wall Signs
Zoning District Maximum Sign Area
R (multi-family and non-residential signs) and A zones One square foot per three lineal feet of building facing street. Maximum 50 square feet.
L-O, N-O, R-O, HS One square foot per two lineal feet of building facing street. Maximum 75 square feet.
C-1, C-4, PC, M-4 15% of building wall facing the street.
C-2, C-3, C-5, M-1, M-2, T-1, T-2 20% of building wall facing the street.

B. Free-Standing Signs (Accessory): Free-Standing accessory signs may be displayed in accordance with the standards set forth in Table 11-010.2 and the following. Free-standing signs:

(1) Signs shall be located within a landscaped area no smaller than the background area of the sign. New landscaped areas shall be reviewed as part of the sign application. Decorative rock or part may be a component of the landscaping.

(2) Shall include the street address in letters at least 3.5 inches tall;

(3) Shall be oriented to the street providing frontage to the business and be located toward the front of the parcel and as close to the main vehicle entrance as possible. Orientation to interstate highways is prohibited;

(4) Shall be set back at least five feet from the front property line in residential and office zones; one foot in other zones. Setback shall be five feet from side property lines.

(5) Number Allowed: One per street frontage. Where two signs are allowed for a business on a street corner, each sign must be designed and located so as to be viewed only from the street on which it is located. In lieu of two signs, one corner sign designed to be viewed from both streets is allowed, provided it complies with other provisions of this code.

(6) May have architectural appurtenances with no text extend up to 2 feet over the allowed height.

Table 11-010.2: Free-standing Sign, Maximum Background Area and Height
Zoning District Maximum
Background Area
(square feet)
R-1, R-2, R-3, A-1, A-2 1 per 3 lineal ft. of street frontage up to 50 6 6
L-O, N-O, R-O, HS, T-1 1 per 3 lineal ft. of street frontage up to 50 8 8
C-1, C-4, C-5, M-1, M-2, T-2 70 15 12
C-2, C-3 80 20 12

C. Master Sign Plan: For multi-tenant commercial developments on at least two acres that are planned and developed as a unit including but not limited to, hospital complexes, office centers (multiple buildings on at least 2 acres) and industrial parks (multiple buildings on at least five acres), a master sign plan is required prior to the placement of any signs.

(1) The master sign plan shall establish standards and criteria for all signs that require sign permits and shall address location, materials, design and quantity.

(2) One free standing center sign is permitted on each street frontage (maximum of two) according to the provisions of the following table 11-010.3. Where there is more than 1,000 feet of frontage on a street, a second sign is allowed. Center signs on Gateway Streets may not exceed the Gateway Street height standards.

(3) Free-standing signs shall be located as near to the primary access driveway as practical. Free-standing signs in commercial and industrial zones shall not be closer than 150 feet from any residentially zoned property.

(4) Separate building pads within centers and parks are allowed one monument style sign with a maximum height of 8 feet and maximum background sign area of 32 square feet, but may not exceed the standards in Table 11-010.2.

(5) Attached signs are permitted in any number, location, or orientation, except toward an adjoining residential property, provided that the total square footage does not exceed 18% of the wall face upon which the signs are placed.

(6) Sign height and placement shall be consistent throughout the development.

(7) Design: Signs shall incorporate materials, colors and design motifs that are compatible with buildings in the development.

Table 11-010.3: Center Sign Maximum Background Area and Height
Zoning District Maximum
Background Area
(square feet)
Maximum Height
L-O, N-O, R-O, HS, T-1 80 15
C-1, C-4, C-5, PC, M-1, M-2, T-2 100 25
C-2, C-3 150 30

D. Directional Signs:

(1) Up to two directional signs shall be permitted at the street entrance to any parcel. The maximum area is four square feet and the maximum height is four feet.

(2) Non-accessory directional signs may be erected by governments giving direction to places of general interest such as colleges, parks, hospitals, etc. Such signs shall be subject to approval by the Director as to the size, location and method of erection.

2. Temporary Signs:

A. Real Estate Signs: Non-illuminated real estate signs shall be allowed in all zones without permits subject to the following:

(1) Number:

(a) One per residential parcel.

(b) One per frontage for nonresidential.

(2) Size:

(a) Six square feet for a single residential lot.

(b) 32 square feet in residential and office zones.

(c) 64 square feet in commercial and industrial zones.

B. Development And Construction Signs: Non-illuminated signs temporarily erected during construction to inform the public of the nature of the project shall be allowed in all zones subject to the following:

(1) Number:

(a) One per residential parcel.

(b) One per frontage for nonresidential parcel.

(2) Size:

(a) Six square feet for a single residential lot.

(b) 64 square feet in residential and office zones.

(c) 96 square feet in commercial and industrial zones.

(3) Display Duration: Such signs may not be displayed until after the issuance of construction permits and must be removed not later than 24 hours following issuance of an occupancy permit for any portion of the project.

C. Special Promotions, Event And Grand Opening Signs: Any lawful business location (except a home occupation) may utilize one temporary, portable sign after obtaining a permit and in accordance with the following:

(1) Within any calendar year, a business shall be limited to the display of one temporary sign for a maximum of three 30 consecutive day periods. Each 30 day period shall be separated by at least 30 days.

(2) Maximum sign area is 32 square feet for free-standing signs the maximum height is 8 feet.

D. Special Community Event Signs: Signs advertising a special community event shall be permitted, including in or over public rights-of-way, subject to approval by the Director as to the size, location and method of erection. Signs that might impair safety or obstruct traffic visibility may not be approved.

E. Political Signs: Political signs shall be allowed in all zoning districts without permits. Such signs shall not be placed in any public right-of-way and may not obstruct traffic visibility.

F. Community Events Within The Grove: Pennants, flags, banner, balloons and promotional sandwich boards may be permitted during and for community events in the Grove. Signs may not remain in place overnight. Sandwich boards shall not exceed a height of four feet or a width of three feet. Permits are not required.

11-010-05: Regulations By Sign Type

For some sign types, regulations shall apply as indicated in this Section.

1. Canopy And Marquee Signs: The permanently-affixed copy area of canopy or marquee signs shall not exceed an area equal to 25 percent of the face area of the canopy, marquee or architectural projection upon which such sign is affixed. Graphic striping, patterns or color bands on the face of a canopy, marquee or architectural projection shall not be included in the computation of sign area.

2. Awning: The copy area of awning signs shall not exceed an area equal to 25 percent of the background area of the awning to which the signs is affixed, or the permitted area for wall or fascia signs, whichever is less. Background colors, striping, patterns or valances, shall not be included in the computation of the sign area.

3. Projecting:

A. Districts Where Allowed:

Table 11-010.4: Projecting Signs Allowed by Zone District
Allowed C-1, C-2, C-3, C-4, C-5, R-O, PC, T-1, M-1, M-2
Prohibited R-1, R-2, R-3, A-1, A-2

B. Standards:

(1) Maximum Background Area: The maximum background area shall be 5 percent of the wall area facing a street in the C-1 district (50 square feet maximum) and 10 percent in all other districts where allowed (75 square feet maximum). When both projecting and wall signs are utilized, the maximum area for both signs is reduced by 50 percent.

(2) Number Allowed: One per street level business for each street frontage. Where there is more than 150 feet of frontage for one business, a second sign is allowed.

(3) Projection Above Building Height: No sign shall extend vertically above the highest point of the building facade upon which it is mounted by more than two feet.

(4) Projection From Wall: Projection from wall shall be no more than ten feet, or to within two feet of the face of the curb, whichever is lesser.

(5) Clearance: Clearance over public property shall be a minimum of 12 feet.

(6) Height: Not to exceed 30 feet above the ground.

4. Under Canopy/Marquee (Hanging):

A. Under canopy signs shall be limited to no more than one such sign per public entrance to any occupancy, and shall be limited to an area not to exceed 16 square feet.

B. Such signs shall maintain a clear vertical distance above any sidewalk or pedestrian way a minimum of 8 feet.

5. Window: Window signs shall be allowed without permits for any business (except home occupations) subject to the following:

A. The aggregate area of all such signs shall not exceed 25 percent of the window area.

B. Window signs shall not be assessed against the sign area permitted for other sign types.

6. Electronic Message Displays (EMD): Signs may contain electronic message displays in accordance with the following:

A. Such displays shall contain static messages only, and shall not have movement, or the appearance or optical illusion of movement, of any part of the sign structure, design, or pictorial segment of the sign, including the movement or appearance of movement of any illumination or the flashing, scintillating or varying of light intensity.

B. Each message or frame must be displayed for a minimum of eight seconds.

C. Area shall not occupy more than 50 percent of the sign.

D. The brightness or intensity of the EMD shall be factory set not to exceed 5,000 nits on clear days and 500 nits from dawn to dusk. The EMD shall also not exceed 50 percent of its maximum brightness on clear days and 10 percent of maximum brightness from dawn to dusk. Each display must have a light sensing meter that will adjust the display brightness as the ambient light changes. Brightness levels must also be appropriate for the ambient light conditions.

E. Text-only single-color message displays with letters no higher than 12 inches may scroll or travel without the static message limitation. Maximum area for such displays is 8 square feet.

F. EMD's are allowed in R- A- and O- zones only by conditional use permit.

G. One EMD per business or center.

H. EMD's may not be installed on a non-conforming sign.

7. Wall Signs Oriented To Interstate Highways: Commercial and industrial zoned properties that abut I-84 or I-184 southwest of 15th Street may have one wall sign per business oriented to the highway, in accordance with the following:

A. Area: One square foot in sign area for each lineal foot of wall up to 32 square feet.

B. Height: Shall not exceed the height of the wall or 30 feet.

C. Readerboards and EMD's are prohibited.

8. Portable Signs In The C-5 District: Portable signs are defined as A-frame, T-frame and similar free-standing, movable signs that are placed on the sidewalk.

A. Number:

(1) Ground floor businesses with street frontage are allowed one per street frontage.

(2) One sign per building frontage may be permitted for upper levels and one for below ground uses.

B. Maximum sign area is 7 square feet.

C. Location: Signs shall be located outside vision triangles in the furnishing zone or close to the curb in front of the business and shall not obstruct pedestrian traffic or violate ADA guidelines. If adequate space does not exist in a furnishing zone or near the curb, a sign may be placed in a vestibule or alcove near a building entrance, so long as a 5 foot clear pedestrian zone is maintained. Signs shall not be placed within 5 feet of the curb abutting an on-street accessible parking stall.

D. Signs shall be made of stable and durable material and shall be aesthetically pleasing.

11-010-06: Off-premise Signs

1. Off-Site Identification: When off-site identification is needed because of excessive distance from a public street, lack of street frontage, unusual topography or other special circumstances, an off-premise sign may be allowed with a conditional use permit. The standard conditional use approval criteria and the special circumstances noted above shall be used to evaluate the request. The base zone standards for sign size and location shall apply.

2. Poster Panel And Bulletin Panel Off-Premise Signs (Billboards): Each application for a billboard must be accompanied by a demolition permit for an existing billboard. The number of billboard signs in the City shall not be increased except through annexation. Off-premise poster panels and bulletin panels may be allowed in the C-2, C-3, M-1 and M-2 zones upon approval of a conditional use permit, except that no signs may be located on Capitol Boulevard or on Federal Way between Capitol Boulevard and Bergeson Street.

A. Approval Criteria: The PZC must make the following findings:

(1) That the sign will not negatively impact the visual quality of a public open space.

(2) That the sign will not block the view of a structure of historical or architectural significance.

(3) That sign height is compatible with buildings within a 300 foot radius. Where view of the sign would be blocked by buildings, or where view of buildings would be blocked by the sign, the sign height shall not exceed the building height by more than 12 feet. Where there are no buildings within 300 feet, sign height shall not exceed 22 feet.

(4) That sign lighting will not spill onto adjacent properties.

B. Design And Location: New signs must comply with the following:

(1) Sign area height shall not exceed 10.5 feet.

(2) Sign area shall not exceed 248 square feet for poster panels and 378 square feet for bulletin panels.

(3) Sign height shall not exceed 40 feet, but may be limited to less by 11-010-06.2.A(3) above.

(4) No sign may be located within 1000 feet of another billboard on the same side of the street. However, if a sign is larger than 312 square feet, the distance to another such sign must be at least 2000 feet.

(5) A sign on one side of the street may be no closer than 150 feet from a sign on the opposite side of the street, as measured along the line of travel.

(6) At any street intersection, there may be no more than 496 square feet of billboard sign area within 250 feet measured from the street corner curbs.

(7) Back-bracing is prohibited.

(8) View of the sign should be unobstructed for 250 feet along the line of travel.

(9) Electronic message displays are allowed with static frame effects that change with no transition - no more frequently than every 8 seconds. Brightness levels shall comply with Section 11-010-05.6.

(10) Setbacks shall be at least 5 feet from any property line. When adjacent to residentially zoned property, the setback of that residential zone shall be met.

Table 11-010.5: Off-Premise Poster Panels and Painted Bulletin Signs Allowed by Zone District
Prohibited A-1, A-2, R-1, R-2, R-3, R-O, N-O, L-O, C-1, C-4, C-5, PC, T-1
Allowed with Sign Permit C-2, C-3, M-1, M-2

11-010-07: Special Sign Districts

1. Capitol Boulevard Sign Standards: In addition to the generally applicable sign regulations of this Chapter, these special standards apply in the Capital Boulevard Special Design District.

A. Review:

(1) Signs require Design Review approval as an overall sign plan for the site.

(2) The Design Review Committee shall provide recommendations to the Planning and Zoning Commission on requests for variances and conditional use permits.

B. General Standards:

(1) One sign per building is permitted for each street frontage in accordance with the following provisions. The sign may be of the wall, free-standing or projecting type.

(2) Wall signs shall not exceed 15% of the wall area in size or 65 square feet, whichever is less. In addition, multi-tenant buildings are allowed one 16 square foot sign per tenant.

(3) In lieu of wall signs under 2. above, projecting signs may be allowed. Projecting signs shall not exceed 25 square feet in area and shall not exceed the building height or 20 feet, whichever is less. In addition, multi-tenant buildings are allowed one 12 square foot sign per tenant.

(4) Colors, materials and lighting shall be restrained and harmonious with the building and site.

(5) Use of neon is encouraged for illumination.

(6) Electronic message displays shall be allowed only with a conditional use permit. Manual readerboards must be approved by the Design Review Committee.

(7) Free-standing signs are allowed as per the size and height regulations for Gateway Streets.

11-010-08: Enforcement

1. The Planning Director shall take appropriate enforcement action to correct or abate any violation where a sign is erected, constructed, altered, repaired, moved, or maintained in violation of these sign regulations or any other City ordinance.

2. The violation of or failure to comply with any of the provisions of this Code or the erection, use, or display or the allowing of any unlawful sign is a misdemeanor pursuant to Section 1-4-1 of the Boise City Code. Each day or portion thereof upon which a violation occurs constitutes a separate offense.