Skip To Content

Specific Purposes, Policies and Regulations of the City Sign Ordinance

What is the purpose?

The purpose of the sign ordinance is to promote economic vitality, enhance the community's appearance, and encourage the effective use of signs in the community by maintaining minimum standards that limit the number, size, design and illumination of signs.

The sign regulations are established to protect pedestrian and traffic safety by minimizing confusing and distracting signs and to provide clear identity and direction to major shopping centers and residential neighborhoods. They have also been established to enable the fair and consistent enforcement of the sign ordinance.

There are a variety of commercial signs that are exempt...

Incidental and interior window signs (not exceeding 20 percent of the overall window area) are excluded from the permit process. Signs indicating hours of operation, street address numerals as well as holiday lights and similar holiday displays intended for temporary use do not require a sign permit. Unless a sign type is defined as an exempt sign per the San Ramon Sign Ordinance, a sign permit must be obtained before installation.

When is a sign permit required?

Most signs located within the City require a sign permit (unless expressly defined as an exempt sign) and may be subject to architectural review approval. This process helps ensure that proposed signs meet the requirements and design standards of the City and that they are beneficial to the community.

A sign permit application typically requires the submittal of a completed architectural review application form, application fee and plan sets providing the sign design and construction details, sign location and if applicable, lighting methods and landscaped surroundings. Materials and/or color samples and photographs should also accompany the plan sets in addition to any other information deemed necessary by the Planning Department staff. Staff may determine the number of sets of site plans and building elevations based on the required approval process for your sign application.

What is a Master Sign Program?

A Master Sign Program identifies criteria for placement, design and construction of signs (including flags and banners) which are specific to a commercial or multi-family residential development which will be congruent with the site planning and building design of the entire site area. This program helps ensure the compatibility of signs within the development regarding design theme, sign size, locations, color and materials. Through this approach, a Master Sign Program helps ensure efficient directional signage and/or identification within the complex to secure pedestrian and motorist safety and promote the economic vitality of the center.

Most commercial centers within the City have an approved Master Sign Program which identifies the sign type or design, and the sign location(s) within the center where tenants may install signs. A copy of the Master Sign Program should be provided to all prospective business owner(s) by the property owner and/or property management company; a copy may also be obtained by contacting the Planning Services Department.

Another purpose of the Master Sign Program is to more efficiently process individual tenant signs by allowing administrative approvals by the Architectural Review Board and the Zoning Administrator when the individual tenant sign conforms with the approved Master Sign Program.

When is a Master Sign Program required?

A Master Sign Program is required when a site consists of six (6) or more nonresidential occupants, or any multi-family residential development when more than one sign in proposed on the site. Projects involving construction or renovation of more than 25,000 square feet of space in commercial, office or industrial districts are also required to provide a Master Sign Program.

Signs that are not permitted...

Some signs that are not permitted within the City are roof-top signs, inflatable signs (tethered balloons), moving, rotating and flashing signs. Advertisements located within a public right-of-way are restricted and any off-site directional sign(s) which could be confused with public direction signs are prohibited. Outdoor advertising signs and A-frame signs within a commercial center are also restricted unless authorized by an approved Master Sign Program.

Temporary Signs

There are primarily three (3) types of temporary (banner) signs permitted in the City of San Ramon.

  • Temporary Identification Signs

These types of banners are intended to provide temporary identity for new businesses prior to permanent sign approval and installation. Only the name of the business shall be located on the temporary sign. These signs are limited to one (1) per tenant and a twelve (12) foot height limit above ground level. Banners should be professionally designed and fabricated from durable and weatherproof materials. They are permitted for a maximum period of ninety (90) calendar days with the approval of the Zoning Administrator unless an extension is authorized.

In many instances the Planning Department staff may administratively process your permit if the sign meets all of the sign ordinance regulations. This process takes approximately five (5) working days.

In other instances, the permit may require review by the San Ramon Architectural Review Board which is comprised of five (5) design professionals who are appointed by the City Council. The Architectural Review Board meets on the first (1st) and third (3rd) Thursdays of each month.

  • Temporary Advertising/Promotional (Banner) Signs

The purpose of these signs are to advertise or promote a tenant "grand opening," "relocation," or "going out of business." These signs are limited to one (1) sign per tenant and limited to a consecutive fourteen (14) calendar day installation period. Promotional signs should be professionally designed and fabricated from durable and weatherproof materials and should not exceed a twelve (12) foot height limit above ground level.

  • Temporary Special Event (Banner) Signs

Special events sponsored by a shopping center/area such as a "sidewalk" sale or a special seasonal sales event such as a "back to school" sale, should be considered temporary in nature.

Flags, banners, pennants etc., and other similar devices without advertising copy (other than the tenant or center name, and/or the announcement of the aforementioned permitted events), may be placed on the building exterior and secured to or suspended from a building wall or flag pole. Said signs and/or flags are not to be affixed to a tree, roof or fence. Tethered balloons and inflatable signs are prohibited. These signs are limited to one (1) per tenant; a maximum of two (2) commercial center-sponsored signs within a commercial center or area; and a twelve (12) foot height limit above ground level. Temporary advertising signs should be professionally designed and fabricated from durable and weatherproof materials. They should be located as not to obstruct the public rights-of-way and/or obstruct signs identifying adjoining establishments. These signs are limited to a consecutive fourteen (14) calendar day installation period per special event.

Temporary Advertisement/Promotional Window Signs

Signs which are installed on a temporary basis only on the interior of a window to advertise an event, sale, product and/or service, shall be limited to twenty-one (21) consecutive days quarterly. Promotional window signs are allowed without the aforementioned time restriction between the day prior to Thanksgiving through January 2nd. These signs are limited to twenty percent (20%) of the window area per building wall. Such signs are not to block or impede line-of-sight or surveillance as required by the Chief of Police.

Temporary On-Site Commercial Real Estate Signs

These types of signs are intended to identify commercial, office, or industrial property for sale, rent or lease. These temporary signs are limited in use to one sign per site or building unless otherwise authorized by the Zoning Administrator. Signs shall be located on the site the sign is identifying for sale, lease or rent and shall not be located in the public right-of-way. Such signs are not to be located in such a manner that they address the freeway or the on-/off-ramps. The signs are to be removed no later than thirty (30) calendar days from the issuance of building occupancy unless otherwise authorized by an approved Master Sign Program.

Signs shall be limited to a maximum of twelve (12) square feet in sign face area and eight (8) feet in height measured from the top of the sign to the ground directly below it. When situated within thirty (30) feet of a permanent monument sign, the sign face area of the temporary sign shall be reduced to fifty percent (50%) of the adjoining monument sign face area.

Portable Signs

Portable signs or "sandwich board" signs, are intended to provide directional assistance to a tenant space within a commercial center. These signs are limited to one (1) sign per tenant and must be located within close proximity of the tenant entryway. Such signs shall not be visible from public streets and are prohibited within the public rights-of-way or any other location which would block and/or impede vehicular/pedestrian walkways or travelways. At no time shall such portable signs obstruct signs identifying adjoining establishments, and/or be placed within any required yard setback or landscaped area. When located within a commercial center or multi-family development consisting of six (6) or more occupants, the locations and/or sign design, (colors, size, location, etc.) shall be specified by an approved Master Sign Program.

Window Signs

The total area of permanent window signs, (including all exempt signs), are limited to twenty percent (20%) of the total window area per building wall. Permanent window signs should be fabricated to the highest standards of design and construction not to be positioned in such a fashion that they obscure the vision of activities inside by law enforcement officials.

Wall Signs

These signs are located below a parapet or roofline no greater than twelve (12) inches from the face of the building with the exception of awning signage. They are limited to a maximum square footage of .75 square feet per one (1) linear foot of building frontage up to a maximum of seventy-five (75) square feet of sign area per wall. Wall signs may exceed the maximum permitted sign area when the special conditions apply as defined in the Sign Ordinance.

Review Process

A majority of the signs requiring a permit are subject to the architectural review process. In many instances, the architectural review of a sign permit may be conducted administratively and approved by the Planning Services Department staff which requires a processing time of approximately five (5) working days. If the sign permit is not subject to an administrative approval process by the staff, the sign will be reviewed by the Architectural Review Board which meets twice monthly. These applications can be processed in two (2) to four (4) weeks by the City staff. Please call Planning Department staff to determine specific processing requirements for your application.