Application takes 5-10 minutes. Approval time varies.
What is a street painting?
Street paintings are large, decorative paintings installed directly on the street. They may be as large as an intersection or an entire block and past themes have included animals, flowers, geometric designs, trees, and more. The first modern street painting here in Portland was in 1996.
In addition to the aesthetic beauty of the paintings themselves, they build community and relationships between neighbors, they create a sense of place, and apply key crime prevention principles. Any resident, business, or nonprofit may apply to install one.
What should you know before applying?
The biggest misperception about street paintings is that they affect traffic, either making it better or worse. We have no data to support any changes to traffic volume or safety as a result of street paintings. Please take this to heart as you plan your project. We want community members to have reasonable expectations and realistic measures of success.
These are community projects, but the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is here to help. The community designs the painting, purchases the paint, installs it themselves, and handles ongoing maintenance. PBOT offers design guidance, engineering review, design approval, and provides grant information. All permits are FREE.
Please talk to your neighbors first about what you're planning. Once approved, please notify your neighbors of when the street painting will take place and invite them to participate. Use this street painting notification flyer template.
All proposals and use of Street Painting permits must align with state and county healthy guidance related to Covid-19 and businesses, including hours of operation See state and county links below:
Once your painting permit is approved, you will need to apply for an additional Healthy Blocks permit to close the street down for your installation day. Visit our Healthy Blocks permits page for more information.
The city has established rules for where street paintings can be. Typically, they are only allowed on low-traffic residential streets, based on standards from city traffic engineers, as follows:
- The road must be classified as a “local service traffic street,” an industry term for what most would call a residential street. Find your street classification using our online street classification map. Simply type in an address and use the legend to identify the street type.
- The road must not be on a transit route or streets classified as a “major emergency response route.”
- Low-traffic street, in this context, means there are less than 2,500 vehicles passing through daily (for paintings of an intersection) or less than 2,000 vehicles daily (for mid-block paintings). Check your traffic volume using our online traffic count map.
Street paintings become a part of your neighborhood—its identity and aesthetic. They should help build stronger community, so it’s important to talk with your neighbors and collaborate with them on creating the design. We've included a flyer you can leave for your neighbors to let them know what you're planning.
Creating this sense of shared ownership, and stewardship of the painting, leads to a successful project, where neighbors often collaborate to repaint yearly.
There are some restrictions to consider about design first, including:
- No speech. Designs may not contain words, letters, numbers, universally recognized symbols, or logos of any kind.
- No copyrighted material may be used in whole or in part.
- No mimicking of traffic control devices that might affect driver behavior. Put simply, designs should not look like crosswalks, stop signs, or other three-dimensional objects.
- Buffers must be maintained around the following traffic control devices:
- 5-foot buffer around sharrows and lane striping.
- 10-foot buffer on either side of a marked crosswalk.
- 50-foot buffer on approaches to traffic signals
- Also, paintings on side streets adjacent to large streets may not encroach on any legal crossing of the roadway. By state law, every corner is a crosswalk, whether marked or unmarked.
- In some cases, paintings my cover double-yellow stripes in the center of the roadway, but only with approval by PBOT traffic engineers.
Here’s what we need to see on your application before we approve:
- Design. A drawing of the design overlaid on the street where it is to be painted. The design must includes the actual colors to be used.
- Map of the location. We recommend using an aerial image of the street from Google Maps.
- Dimensions. Include length and width, but also distance from the curbs, and how far your design extends beyond an intersection (for intersection paintings) or how far from the intersections your design is (for midblock paintings).
PBOT reviews all proposals and final installations must match the design PBOT approved.
Tips on design
- Contrast. Draw your design on a piece of paper (or on a computer) where the background color is the same grey tone of your roadway. This will help pick colors that get the type of contrast you want. Colors must be included to receive your permit.
- Shapes. Use large, simple shapes, as opposed to many small ones with tricky detail. You want to make sure that youth, the elderly, and people with all kinds of skill levels can participate in the project. Also, large shapes make installation and maintenance much easier.
Painting roadways and other public right-of-way requires specific paints with a special additive for slip resistance. This ensures they meet State slip resistance requirements, found on page 937 of the Oregon Standard Specifications for Construction 2021.
PBOT has partnered with Miller Paint on a slip-resistant paint option. You must request this special when you order your paint. The additive is mixed with the paint just prior to application (see image here).
Ongoing upkeep and maintenance
There is no minimum maintenance requirement for street paintings. Typically, neighborhoods choose to maintain their street art or not, either freshening it up every 1-3 years, or letting it slowly fade away.
If the design is not changing, you won’t need a new Street Painting permit. However, you must apply to close the street down while you paint. Starting May 2021, these permits are called the Healthy Blocks permit. Please contact us first to make sure you have the right permit.
If the design is changing, even just the colors, you will need to go through this application again.
Discounts and other resources
Many street painting projects become part of the nonprofit City Repair’s Village Building Convergence (VBC). As a VBC project, you will get help with logistics and community facilitation training. VBC also has a relationship with Miller Paint that will mean a 50% discount on your paint. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions before applying or about your permit?
Contact us at email@example.com or 503-823-1052.
Go to application
Applying online is easy and takes about 5 minutes. You do not need to have a complete design when you apply. PBOT staff can help walk you through the process after you've submitted an application.