Street Graphics and the Law

PAS Report 527

By Daniel Mandelker, Andrew Bertucci, William Ewald

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This report is available free to all because it has been superseded by a more recent edition.

This seminal report outlines a street-graphics system that ensures on-premise signs are expressive, appropriate, legible, and compatible with the character of the community. The system is a legally enforceable regulatory framework that makes good design possible. It offers benefits to business owners by eliminating the visual cacophony that often drowns out their messages and to drivers and pedestrians by making it easier and safer for them to find what they're looking for.

This is an essential report for communities dealing with the challenging issue of regulating commercial signs.

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
Oct. 1, 2004

Table of Contents

1. Street graphics revised
What this revision does • The purpose of street graphics • Other features of the streetscape • To sum up

2. United States Sign Council best practice standards for commercial on-premise signs by Andrew Bertucci, Executive Director, United States Sign Council
Overview: seeing and reading roadside on-premise signs • Determining sign size using driver reaction time • Factors affecting the way drivers see, understand and respond to signs while in movement • Sign factors affecting a driver's perception of a sign • Putting it all together: calculating sign area • Sign height: minimum standards in areas of medium or high vehicular traffic • Endnotes

3. The street graphics concept
The key issues • The setting for street graphics • The four criteria of good street graphics • Developing a street graphics system • Items of information and driver information overload • Endnotes

4. The street graphics system in its principles
Elements of the system • The five principles of the street graphics system

5. How street graphics are displayed
Street graphics types • Special street graphics • Illumination, movement and color • Items of information

6. Street graphics model ordinance
Section 1.01 Statement of purpose • Section 1.02 Noncommercial signs and messages • Section 1.03 Definitions • Section 1.04 Ground graphics • Section 1.05 Wall and roof graphics • Section 1.06 Projecting graphics • Section 1.07 Awnings • Section 1.08 Special street graphics • Section 1.09 Illumination and movement • Section 1.10 Items of information allowance • Section 1.11 Areas of special character • Section 1.12 Programs for graphics • Section 1.13 Street graphics prohibited • Section 1.14 Street graphics exempt • Section 1.15 Variances • Section 1.16 Nonconforming street graphics • Section 1.17 Permits • Section 1.18 Enforcement • Section 1.19 Severability clause

Chapter 7. Regulating street graphics: The legal issues
Sign regulation as a constitutional problem • Aesthetics as a basis for sign regulation • The constitutionality of sign regulation as applied • The traffic safety justification • On-premise sign regulations • Design review • Conclusion • An afterword: the Federal Highway Beautification Act • Endnotes

Chapter 8. A strategy for dealing with noncomforming street graphics
The amortization option • The compensation requirement under the Federal Highway Beautification Act • Alternate methods for removing nonconforming signs • Conclusion • Endnotes

Chapter 9. Free speech issues
The Supreme Court's free speech doctrines • The Supreme Court's sign ordinance decisions • On-premise time, place and manner regulations • Content neutrality • Permit, design review and approval requirements • Endnotes

Appendix A: List of references
Appendix B: Ordinances based on the street graphics model