Please note the time change of San Rafael Regular City Council Meetings to commence at 6:00 p.m. 

**ATTN CUSTOMERS**  Effective 1/1/2023 all Building Permits issued after this date will be valid for 2 years.  Minor permits such as water heater & furnaces, etc. will be valid for 180 days only.    If your permit is not Finaled by the expiration date you will need to pay a renewal fee.   

Attn Customers:  Sign permits will no longer need a separate Planning Division permit and approval.  Please only apply for a Building Permit.   This does NOT apply to neon signs & signs painted directly on the building (murals), those will require a separate Planning Division permit. 


Sign Permits

Anyone can apply for a permit online, but if this is your first time applying, you will need to create a user account.

Property owners, Architects, Agents, etc:  You can create an account in the permitting portal

Contractors:  To apply for permits you will need to be logged into your account.  To request an account click here if you do not already have one.

Pro Tips:

  • All online permits once received will be “Under Review” and could take up to 3 weeks for your initial review to be completed.   If your plans received corrections or additional information is needed you can view those notices online in the permit portal.
  • When applying you will need to upload your plans for review. Please make sure your uploaded documents are unsecured and in PDF format.
  • The maximum file size is 75MB.  This should allow for most projects to upload their plans in 1 file.  Be sure to double check that your plans attached correctly to your permit after payment.
  • Please make sure that ALL departments listed on your permit have completed their reviews prior to resubmitting corrected plans or you will be subject to additional delays and possible multiple revisions to your plans
  • Once approved your approved plans, permit documents, and Job Card will be attached to your permit and available online in your permit attachments.

Permits are required for all new commercial business signs intended for public view (e.g., on an exterior business frontage or an interior sign placed within 10 feet of an exterior facing window) are subject to review and approval of a sign permit. Signs composed of professionally manufactured individual letters are generally preferred over hand-painted, box or can signs.

To apply for a commercial sign for your business you will need to provide :

  •  Photograph(s) showing all existing signage on the building and/or parcel (if applicable).
  •  A site plan to-scale (1/4”= 1’-0” or similar appropriate scale) showing the property lines and dimensions, building and tenant suite(s) outlines and dimensions, location(s) of existing and proposed sign(s) (note removal of existing signs, if applicable), and location of freestanding sign(s) on-site and on adjacent sites (if proposing new freestanding sign).
  •  Professional quality drawings showing the proposed sign(s) including the sign type (e.g. freestanding, wall, etc.), sign dimensions, illumination (if applicable), material(s) & color(s), location (if on a building frontage, include measurement of frontage length), and; total sign area square footage.
  •  Attachment and/or structural details.
  • Electrical plans for illuminated signs.


Additional Sign Design Criteria:


  • Sign area shall be measured as one sign face of a double-sided/back-to-back sign (i.e., where sign faces can be viewed from one direction only).
  • Non-geometric signs shall be measured using maximum projection on a vertical plane.
  • Permanent tubing or string lighting outlining a building or window area shall be included in calculation of sign area; with a min. width of 6” or the entire area within a geometric shape that encloses signage.
  • Clocks or displays that are integral to a sign structure or digital displays shall be counted.
  • Incidental framework shall not be counted, unless illuminated.
  • Signs with a distinguishing frame and background shall be measured to include the entire background and framing surfaces.
  • Signs shall not obstruct exits or sight distance.
  • Signs shall be placed on-site.
  •  Signs shall face the public street front or public parking lot, or front elevation of the building.
  • Signs on a building facing a one-way street or impaired visibility may be relocated to the side or rear elevation to improve visibility.
  • Upper floor or below grade tenants, or tenants in a multi-tenant building that have no street frontage, shall be limited to a building directory sign affixed to the wall at the entrance (up to 10 sq. ft. in area), or multi-tenant or monument sign (where permitted). In the downtown, upper floor tenants may be allowed a single 5 sq. ft. window sign.
  • Businesses with two street frontages may place signs on each frontage, but cannot transfer signage from one frontage to another frontage.
  •  Signs shall not extend above the roofline, shall be at or below the sill of second floor windows or the eave of a one story building. In the downtown, signs are intended for view by pedestrians or vehicles at street level, not long distances.
  • Mansard signs shall be located on the lower 2/3 of the roof slope, not extend more than three feet from the roof slope face, and have end returns flush with the roof surface to conceal the back of sign and bracing.
  • Signs shall not project beyond the sides of a marquee or the building wall plane, but may extend higher not more than one-half the height of the marquee face (but below the building roofline).
  • Marquee or blade/hanging signs shall maintain at least 8’ vertical clearance above a walkway.
  • Projecting or blade signs shall be permitted for ground floor tenants only and not exceed 36 square feet citywide or 5 square feet in the downtown area.
  • Signs shall not project more than 6 feet from a building face and no closer than 2 feet from the street curb.
  • Projecting signs should be spaced 15 feet apart (except in the downtown), and only one permitted per business.
  • Conduit or wiring shall be concealed or screened from view to the extent feasible.


For additional information on sign requirements , exceptions, or Sign Programs contact  the Planning Division HERE

If you are ready to apply for a Sign Program or Exception start your application HERE 


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