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Atascadero steps up enforcement of sign ordinance 

BannerSignsChamber to host sign symposium to answer questions

Though the city of Atascadero has attempted to enforce the sign ordinance in the past, Atascadero Planner Alfredo Castillo said they were not successful. At the beginning of 2014, however, the Atascadero City Council directed staff to develop a clean-up strategy. The council approved staff’s recommendation at its Jan. 27 meeting.

The strategy includes:

  • Reducing building permit fees for commercial sign permits to a flat fee of $50 for 18 months
  • Reduce Administration Use Permit fees for commercial sign permits to a flat fee of $100 for 18 months
  • Create an expedited process for the issuance of commercial sign permits
  • Determining that A-frame signs are not allowed to be placed within a public right-of-way due to safety, liability and accessibility concerns
  • Implement a phased, banner clean-up program with staff coordinating with Atascadero Chamber of Commerce


“We haven’t changed the sign ordinance,” Castillo said. “It hasn’t changed since 2011. We’re just enforcing the sign ordinance.”

The Atascadero Chamber of Commerce sent out a letter to all Atascadero businesses in February and then city staff followed up by visiting all the businesses and nonprofits that were out of compliance with the sign ordinance. Castillo said staff thought it would take them a few days to complete the visits, during which staff let the manager or employee know the business was out of compliance and gave them a form letter about it and a brochure with information on  the ordinance.

While the sign ordinance allows A-frame signs, it requires that encroachment permits be obtained to place such signs on sidewalks in the public right-of-way. According to the staff report by Castillo, few, if any, of the signs have encroachment permits and are located in areas that block sidewalks or create a visual obstruction for businesses. Because of the liability such signs place on business owners, the city’s insurance carrier announced that it would not cover such obstructions in the future. Now, A-frame signs will not be allowed to be placed in the public right-of-way.

The chamber of commerce will host a Sign Symposium on Thursday, April 30 at 8:30 a.m. in Council Chambers inside the city administration building. Anyone affected by the enforcement of the ordinance or those who may have questions is encouraged to attend the meeting. Questions may also be directed to the planning department by calling (805) 461-5035 or stopping by City Hall, 6500 Palma Ave.

Signs that are exempt from getting a permit

  • Real estate signs: must be no larger than six square feet and removed 14 days after the sale and must be on-site
  • Official government flags
  • Banner and temporary signs: must be no larger than 40 square feet for no more than 30 days and be secured flat against a building or structure (for more on the banner requirements, click here)
  • Residential area signs: must be no larger than four square feet
  • Window lettering: Must not exceed 50 percent of the window area
  • Construction signs: Must be no larger than 40 square feet and no taller than eight feet

Prohibited signs

  • Off-site and billboard signs
  • Signs on vehicles: except when printed directly on the vehicle or printed on vinyl and placed directly on the vehicle
  • Feather or advertising flags
  • Animated signs
  • Roof signs
  • Snipe signs
  • Permanent banner sign
  • Inflatable signs

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