Sign and Awning Permits

Apply for permanent sign permits and awning permits. Get the sign permit application and all the required materials you need to prepare for a completed application. Learn about the different types of signs and when you need a sign permit.
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Development Services issues permits for most signs and awnings on private property based on the requirements of Title 32.

Registration is required for portable signs (A-Boards) and temporary banners on private property and on the sidewalk.

For signs in the street right-of-way (except A-boards) and signs on utility poles, contact Transportation.

Some signs are regulated by the sign code, but are exempt from permit or registration requirements.

When a sign permit is required

A sign permit is required when materials placed or constructed, or light projected convey a message or image and is used to inform or attract the attention of the public.

The term “sign” does not depend on the content of the message or image conveyed.

  • Placards, posters, diagrams
  • Projected slides
  • Images, holograms, flags
  • Monument and freestanding
  • Fabric awnings (with or without images)
  • Modifying existing sign
    • Changing from illuminated to non-illuminated or vice versa
    • Increasing or decreasing the sign size
    • Changing location

Sign types that require a sign permit or registration

Sign typesDescriptions
  • Painted
  • Flush-mounted
  • Projecting
  • Freestanding
  • Directional
Fabric Awning
  • Fabric over frame
  • Sign on awning
  • Sign attached to canopy
A-Board (visit Portable signs page)
  • Portable
  • Sandwich Board
Temporary (visit Temporary signs page)
  • Banner
  • Balloon
  • Fascia (Wall)
  • Freestanding

When you don't need a sign permit

There are instances when a sign permit is not required. Generally, these are items that are required by law: either Federal, State or City, and if they are implemented through a different code such as Public Art and Original Art Murals.

For a complete list of when you don't need a sign permit, visit the City Code on sign permit exemptions.

When a sign is not allowed

There are also times when a sign is prohibited, which means it is not allowed by code or a variance. For a complete list of when signs are not allowed, visit the City Code on sign prohibitions.

Permanent sign and fabric awning permit application requirements 

How to use this table: The left column lists out situations. If the situation is true about your sign project, then you'll need to submit the application requirement listed in the right column.

If the conditions are true for your sign projectThen include the application requirement
For all permanent signs and fabric awnings

Complete an application for each sign being installed. (Ex. Two signs will require two separate permit applications)

Site plan(see site plan section below this table for details)
Elevation plan (see elevation plan section below this table for details)
Sign & attachment details(see sign & attachment details section below this table for details)
Sign to primary building wall ratio measurements (see sign to primary wall ratio measurement section below this table for details)
The sign is freestanding (pole or monument)

Structural calculations and structural details prepared by an Oregon Licensed Engineer. (See structural calculations section below this table for details) 

The site plan needs to include:

  • Vision clearance areas (32.42.010.C)
  • Length of street the sign will be located
  • List of all signs on site (includes all buildings and tenant spaces) 

The sign is either

  • Attached to a metal canopy (above or below)
  • Channel letters
  • Projecting from a building
  • Not flush mounted
Structural calculations and structural details prepared by an Oregon Licensed Engineer. (See structural calculations section below this table for details) 
Sign is internally illuminated
  • The sign permit application must be signed by the electrician performing the work or property owner
  • A separate electrical permit application 
Sign changes imageElectrical detail drawing and specific attachment and measurements for the changing image portion of the sign. See changing image signs under definitions.
The property of this sign project is associated with a land use review (Adjustment, Design, or Historic)Note all information identified in the Administrative Decision portion of the recorded Land Use decision. The sign must match exactly as proposed in the decision. If there is any deviation a new decision will be required.

Sign and awning permit fees

Visit our current fee page. Search the page for "Sign, Awning Permit and Registration Fee Schedule".

Plans and calculations requirements

Site plan


Not allowed:

  • No Google Maps
  • No photos
  • No use of color (we scan everything in black and white)
  • No 3D renderings

Elevation plans

An elevation is a view of a building seen from one side, a flat representation of one façade.


  • Elevation direction (east, west, south, north)
  • Distance from bottom of the sign to grade
  • Distance from top of sign to roof line
  • Distance of any projection over the right-of-way

Not allowed:

  • No Google Maps
  • No photos
  • No use of color (we scan everything in black and white)
  • No 3D renderings

Sign & attachment details


  • Sign measurements: height, width, and depth
  • Method of attachment to building and materials used
  • Electrical components and specifications
Example of sign detail plan showing the address, weight, area, dimensions in feet, image of the front view and side view
Example of a sign detail plan.
Example of sign attachment plan with side view of sign with method of attachment with material used and electrical components.
Example of a sign attachment plan. Include the method of attachment to building and materials used. Also include electrical components and specifications.

Sign to primary building wall ratio measurements

Primary building wall is the wall of the entrance into the tenant or occupant space. 

Allowable signage in general is based on the length of the primary building wall, existing signage such as wall and freestanding signs, and the base zone. Additional information on base zone regulations and sign standards can be found in Title 32.32.

How to determine allowable signage:

Allowable signage is determined by usinga ratio of 1.5 sq. ft. of allowable signage per 1 ft. of primary building wall.  If there is a freestanding sign on the site, use the ratio of 1 sq. ft. of allowable signage per 1 ft. of primary building wall. Please see the examples below.

If the existing signage at the site is over the allowable signage a Land Use Review will be required for the additional signage.

Application requirement. Provide the measurements as shown in the examples:

  • Primary building wall - length in feet
  • Allowable signage - area in square feet
  • Existing signage - area in square feet
  • Proposed signage - area in square feet
  • Total signage - area in square feet

Example 1. With a freestanding sign:

The proposed sign is for a 50 sq. ft. blade sign on East Elevation Way. There is a freestanding sign located on that street frontage and the primary building wall is 50 feet.

Primary building wall= 40 linear feet
Allowable signage= 40 sq. ft. (1:1 ratio)
Proposed sign= 50 sq. ft.
Total sign area= 50 sq. ft.                         

In this case that is 10 sq. ft. over the allowable (40 minus 50 equals negative 10). The sign will need to be reduced or a Land Use decision is required.

Example 2. Without freestanding sign:

The proposed sign is for a 32 sq. ft. fascia sign on an existing tenant space. There is no freestanding sign on the site and the primary building wall is 40 feet. There is an existing 32 sq. ft. blade sign.

Primary building wall = 40 linear feet
Allowable signage= 60 sq. ft. (1:1.5 ratio)
Existing signage= 32 sq. ft.
Proposed sign = 32 sq. ft.
Total sign area= 64 sq. ft. (existing + proposed sign)

In this case, the total sign area is 4 sq. ft. over the allowable signage (60 minus 64 equals negative 4). The sign will need to be reduced or a Land Use decision is required.

Using tenant space signage for the landlord

That is on a case-by-case basis as it is dependent on the location of the primary building and secondary building walls at the site. Most times the answer is no based upon site conditions, but it is up to the applicant to provide the information for City staff to review. Please refer to 32.32.030.E.

Structural plans and structural calculations

A structural engineer checks the structural design for compliance with the Oregon Structural Specialty Code (OSSC).

All exterior signs must be able to resist the minimum wind and snow loads as required by the code. All signs must be able to resist minimum vertical (dead and seismic) loads as required by the code.

Structural plans and calculations are required for all signs that are not flush-mounted or flat against a wall.

Structural plans and calculations must be prepared by an engineer registered in Oregon.

Application process

Step 1: Prepare your application materials

Understand your zoning requirements for your sign project

  1. Navigate to Portland Zoning.
  2. Enter your property address.
  3. You'll need to find your "Base Zone"
  4. Navigate to one of the following tables that describes your Base Zone:
    1. If your Base Zone is Residential, Campus & Open Space Zones
    2. If your Base Zone is Commercial, Mixed Use, Employment, and Industrial Zones.
  5. You must design and plan your sign project according to the zoning standards and allowances. Please note that your maximum sign area will depend on your sign to primary wall ratio measurement.
  6. If your location is in a design overlay, historic district, or historic resource please make a free 15-minute appointment with a city planner to discuss your project.

Prepare and include the application materials listed in the sections above, Permanent sign permit application requirements.

Step 2: Apply for a sign permit 

Complete applications and materials may be uploaded online. One (1) Sign/awning permit application per sign.  

To upload your sign permit application and plans online, please apply online using Development Hub PDX by

  1. Selecting 'Apply for A Permit' on the left menu bar
  2. Scrolling down to 'Sign Permit Request' and click on the box
  3. Clicking 'Next' after reading the permit request overview and continue through the system-guided permit request process
  4. Selecting 'Submit' at the end of the process to send in your Sign Permit Request

If you have limited internet access, need language services, or need technical assistance with the online permit process, please call General Inquiries at 503-823-7300.

After you send us your permit request, we review your application to make sure it meets submittal requirements. The application review is completed in chronological order based on the time and date of submission.

If minimum submittal requirements are not met, a list of what you need to complete your application will be provided through Development Hub PDX.

Once the project has been approved for intake, we'll send you instructions about the next steps for your application.

Step 3: Technical Reviews

Once the appropriate intake fees have been paid, Development Services staff will check the proposal for compliance with Title 32 (Sign Code) requirements. Our structural engineer checks the structural design for compliance with the Oregon Structural Specialty Code (OSSC).

If additional information is required a checksheet will be sent to the applicant requesting additional information. Once all required information has been received, we will review the additional information and either checksheet or approve their reviews.

Learn how to follow the status of your permit online with PortlandMaps.

Land use review required

If a land use sign standard is not met, the proposed sign or drawing may need land use review before approval. These reviews apply only to the standards contained in Chapters 32.30 through 32.38. Not all standards are adjustable. Depending on the zoning at the site, signs and awnings may be subject to other regulations. For example, a Design overlay or Plan District may have additional requirements. Changing an existing sign that does not meet the current land use sign standards needs a special review. Also:

  1. Land use review fees are paid along with the land use review application.
  2. If the proposal receives an approval from land use, the applicant records the decision with the County recorder. Include a copy of the recorded decision with the sign permit application and plans.
  3. Land Use Review staff will review the sign permit application for compliance with the land use review decision.
  4. If the proposed sign or awning meets all requirements, the permit is approved to issue. The applicant will be notified of the permit fees due and how to pay. Once you pay the fees, the approved permit is issued. 

Contact Planning & Zoning for questions about land use reviews. 

Structural review required

Structural Engineering reviews the permit drawings and calculations when structural review is needed. When the structural review is complete and the proposal approved, staff will notify the applicant. All signs need structural review except if painted, adhered or flush mounted (with no air or water access behind the sign).

A structural engineer checks the structural design for compliance with the Oregon Structural Specialty Code (OSSC). All exterior signs must be able to resist the minimum wind and snow loads as required by the code. All signs must be able to resist minimum vertical (dead and seismic) loads as required by the code.

Contact General Inquiries for questions. 

Step 4: Get your sign permit 

Once all reviews are complete and approved, the permit will go through pre-issuance, the final quality check. Once complete, the permit is ready for issuance. The approved permit is issued when the fees are paid.

Step 5: Start the work and get ready for inspections

All sign and awning permits need an inspection. Call for inspections at the following points in the project:

  • Before pouring footings for freestanding signs
  • After installing wall anchors for fascia or projecting signs, but before the sign is attached
  • When the project is completed

Additional inspections may be required due to the complexity of the project.

The inspection codes for sign and awning permits:

  • 400 - Sign footings
  • 405 - Electrical service - sign
  • 410 - Sign structure
  • 999 - Final permit

Complex signs (as defined in the Oregon Structural Specialty Code) need a special inspection. The structural engineer lets the applicant know if the sign needs a special inspection as part of the review process. When a special inspection is required, it must be performed by a City of Portland certified testing agency. For more information about special inspections check out the related webpage.

Code, rules, and definitions (Title 32)

Codes and rules

Not all signs need a permit. Section 32.62.010.A of the sign code has a listing of signs that are exempt from permits or registration.

Section 32.32.010: sign standards in the residential and open space zones

Section 32.32.020: sign standards in the commercial, employment and industrial zones.

Other codes may apply based on the scope of work. Building Codes, Rules & Guides has links to the codes and administrative rules, code and program guides. 

Sign permits for awnings

You need a sign permit to install a new awning, add to an existing awning, or structurally alter or relocate an existing awning on property. Lighting for awnings requires a separate electrical permit. Private awnings may project from buildings into the right-of-way. Awning must follow pedestrian clearance and right-of-way extension standards. 

Section 32.52 has more information.


Overview of 32.22.020.YY.  Sign.   

Materials placed or constructed, or light projected, that (1) conveys a message or image and (2) is used to inform or attract the attention of the public.  Some examples of ‘signs’ are materials or lights meeting the definition of the preceding sentence and which are commonly referred to as signs, placards, A-boards, posters, billboards, murals, diagrams, banners, flags, or projected slides, images or holograms.  The scope of the term ‘sign’ does not depend on the content of the message or image conveyed.

This does include text on awnings, exterior vinyl, placards, or painted imagery.

Overview of 32.22.020.NN. Primary building walls. 

Any exterior building wall that faces a street and contains a public entrance to the occupant's premises or tenant space.  If an individual tenant space does not have a street facing wall or does not have a street facing wall containing a public entrance, then the primary building wall for that individual tenant space is any wall containing a public entrance that faces a parking area on the site. See Figure 1.

Plot plan showing a building

Figure 1: Primary and secondary building walls

Changing image signs

Any sign that, through the use of moving structural elements, flashing or sequential lights, lighting elements, or other automated method, results in movement, the appearance of movement or change of sign image or message.  Changing image signs do not include otherwise static signs where illumination is turned off and back on not more than once every 24 hours. For additional information, visit City Code 32.32.030 Section D. Changing image sign features.

Individual elements

When signs are constructed of individual elements attached to a building wall, the sign area is determined by calculating the area of an imaginary rectangle drawn around the sign elements. See Figure 2. Sign elements will be measured as one unit when the distance between the elements is less than two times the dimension of each element. 

image showing measurements of multiple signs added together to measure sign area
Figure 2
Diagrams showing how to measure the area of a sign with equations when there are multiple elements
Figure 3.

Get help with a sign permit

Small Business Empowerment Program

The Small Business Empowerment Program assists Black, Indigenous and people of color business owners and business owners with disabilities recognized by the ADA who have experienced barriers in the review process. Learn more about how we can help


General Inquiries

Development Services
phone number503-823-7300Our front desk team will be available to answer Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please leave a message if you call outside of those hours.
Oregon Relay Service711Oregon Relay Service

Portable Signs

Development Services

Mailing address

Attention: A-Board Sign Permits
1900 SW 4th Ave Ste 5000
Portland, OR 97201