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. In addition, the community decides if they would like to maintain the painting in future years while continuing to be responsible for all aspects of painting installation. PBOT offers lessons learned information from previous projects, design guidance, engineering review, and design approval. 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.
You will need two permits to complete a painting. For the painting itself, you will get an "encroachment permit" which is the type of permit issued for installations in the public right-of-way that will remain in place. In addition, you will need a Healthy Blocks permit to close the street to motor vehicles for your event. In future years, as long as your design stays the same, you will not need an addition street painting permit. However, you will still need a Healthy Blocks permit in future years for your street painting event to close the street to motor vehicle traffic.
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:
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.
- No depiction of activities or products that are not available to all ages.
- 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 may 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. To depict the location, it will be important to show the entire roadway area that you would like to paint. This can be submitted as a simple drawing or as a map that is labeled with the information below:
- Depiction of proposed design including colors to be used
- Street names
- North arrow
- Size of painting as explained in the dimensions section
- For midblock paintings, address labels for all properties that are directly next to the proposed painting. This helps us understand the exact location you are proposing.
- 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.
Only approved paint can be used for your project. We test paints to ensure that they are safe and not slippery. Most paints are not safe for installations on a roadway. In addition to the list of approved paints below, you do have the option of using paint known as “traffic paint” or “traffic zone marking paint”. The benefit of the paints below is that they are able to be tinted to any color you would like. The benefit of the traffic paints is that they tend to be less expensive, but a much smaller range of colors. If you would like to use traffic paint, we would need you to ask the paint store for the “spec sheet” for the product. We would like to review that spec sheet before approving the use of that paint on the street. So, please share the information with us and then wait to purchase your paint until we have given you approval to use that product.
The approved paints that can be tinted are:
- Cabot Solid Deck Stain
- California Paints AllFlor Porch and Patio Acrylic Epoxy Fortified Paint
- Olympic Solid Stain and Sealant
- Storm System Acrylic Stain
- Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Waterborne Exterior Stain
- Sherwin Williams SuperDeck Exterior Stain
Every drop of paint that hits the ground must have a non-slip additive mixed in. Paint stores sell packets of the additive that are measured to be used in one gallon of paint. So, you just empty the packet into the paint and stir it in. It does settle, so you will want to stir the paint every once in a while and definitely stir it well if the paint has been sitting with the additive in it for more than 2 hours.
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.