Ask the County Law Librarian – Campaign Signs
Q: I see campaign signs all over the place on private and public property. What exactly is the law concerning campaign signs? Can one really just throw a giant sign off of Watt Avenue on a public property greenbelt and be legit? How about campaign signs placed on street poles, 10 feet up on commercial property lines without owner’s permission, non-leased commercial property fences without owner’ permission et cetera.
A: With the election right around the corner, it seems like campaign signs are everywhere! State and local laws restrict the placement, size and time period for posting campaign signs.
The California Outdoor Advertising Act (B&P 5405.3) governs the posting of temporary political signs along landscaped freeways. Temporary political signs along landscaped freeways must be less than 32 square feet, and may not be within the right–of–way of any highway or within 660 feet of the edge of, and visible from, the right-of-way of a landscaped freeway. These signs can only be posted 90 days prior to the election, and must be removed within 10 days after the election. Any posted sign must have had a Statement of Responsibility filed with the California Department of Transportation, naming the person who will be responsible for removing the sign. This person will be responsible for reimbursing the Department of Transportation for removal costs if the sign is posted inappropriately. Questions or concerns related to state law should be directed to the Department of Transportation’s Outdoor Advertising Program.
State law (Public Utilities Commission General Order 95, Rule 34) also prohibits posting signs on street lights, communication poles or similar structures. Complaints about political signs on SMUD poles should be directed to the Superintendent of the Field Services Division at (916) 732-5043.
Within Sacramento City limits, city laws apply. Sacramento City Code allows political signs to be posted 90 prior to the election, and removed within 15 days following the election (15.148.600(k)(1)). Signs cannot be posted on private property without consent of the property owner (15.148.040). Permitted sign size is determined by the zoning area in which the sign is placed. In areas zoned “R”, “A”, or “OB,” the aggregate of all signs on the parcel cannot exceed ten square feet or six feet in height (15.148.600(k)(2)). In commercial areas (those zoned “SC”, “HC”, “C”, or “M”), the aggregate size cannot exceed 50 square feet (15.148.600(k)(3)). Political signs cannot be located within or over the public right-of-way, but may be placed in the planting/mowing strip between the curb and the sidewalk (15.148.600(k)(4)). However, signs may not be attached to the curb, sidewalk, post, hydrant, bridge, tree, etc. that is located on public property (15.148.630). Complaints about political signs in the City of Sacramento should be directed to the City Clerk at 916-808-7200.
In unincorporated parts of Sacramento County, county laws apply. These laws allow signs to be posted 90 days prior to the election, and removed within 10 days after the election. Political signs are prohibited in Scenic Corridors. Otherwise, signs must be at least 5 feet of the property line, and at least 16 feet from the street right-of-way lines in residentially zoned areas, and 14 feet in agriculture zones (Sacramento Zoning Code, ch. 35, section 335-03). Complaints about political signs in unincorporated areas of Sacramento County should be directed to the Sacramento County Community Hazards and Nuisance Complaint Center at (916) 875-5656.
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