General layout. The sign code is organized as a reference
document. It is not intended to be read from cover to cover. Instead, it is
organized so you may look up only the parts you need. The list of chapters in
the table of contents is, therefore, very important, as are the section listings
at the beginning of each chapter. A later portion of this introduction explains
how to use the code for commonly asked questions. There are many other ways to
use this code, depending on your objectives.
Land Use vs. Structural and Permitting Regulations
This code contains both land use and structural regulations relating to
signs. In general, land use processes cannot be applied to structural
regulations and structural processes cannot be applied to land use regulations:
"Land use" regulations implement the livability and design-related goals
of Portland’s Comprehensive Plan. Adoption or amendment of land use regulations
must follow a special legislative specified by state law. In addition,
discretionary decisions made under these regulations must go through special
quasi-judicial review processes. Chapters 32.30 through 32.38 of this code
contain land use regulations. Chapters 32.10 through 32.24 contain additional
information, including definitions, that is needed to apply the land use
regulations. In most cases land use reviews are found in Title 33, Planning and
Structural regulations provide standards to safeguard life, health,
property and public welfare. Adoption, amendment, and interpretation of
structural regulations must go through a process that is different than that
required of land use regulations. Chapters 32.40 through 32.54 contain
structural regulations. In most cases, structural review processes are found in
Title 24, Building Regulations and Title 26, Electrical Regulations.
Permitting and enforcement regulations describe the administrative
procedures that will be used to review sign proposals against the objective land
use and structural standards of the code. Chapters 32.60 through 32.68 contain
information about sign permitting and enforcement.
References to other Codes
This code is to be used in conjunction with other City Titles, especially
Title 33, Planning and Zoning; Title 24, Building Regulations; and Title 26,
Electrical Regulations. The Sign Code contains references to regulations,
definitions, and review processes in these and other titles that also apply to
10s - Introduction. Chapters 32.10 and 32.12 contain information about
the purpose of this code, what is regulated by this code, what is prohibited
under the code, what is exempt from regulation, and who has the authority to
administer the code.
20s – Measurements and Terms. Chapters 32.20, 32.22, and 32.24 describe
methods of measurement for signs and lists definitions and terminology needed to
understand the regulatory portion of the code.
30s - Land Use Regulations. Chapters 32.30 through 32.38 contain land use
regulations affecting the size, placement, location, and materials of signs by
zone, land use, and special district.
40s - Structural Regulations. Chapters 32.40 through 32.44 contain
structural and safety-related standards for all signs.
50s - Special Regulations. Chapters 32.50 through 32.54 contain
regulations for development features that are not signs, but that are related to
the sign regulations. These include awnings and strobe lights.
60s - Administration. Chapters 32.60 through 32.68 contain permitting and
enforcement procedures, including application requirements and fees.
Determining the Sign Regulations for a Specific Site
Answering the questions below will help you figure out what regulations apply
to your sign.
Is the sign regulated by Title 32? Is the sign prohibited?
Look at Chapter 32.12 to determine whether the sign code
applies to the location and type of sign to be installed, and whether the sign
type would be prohibited.
What land use standards will apply to the sign?
Step 1: Look at the Official Zoning Maps to determine the zone, overlay
zone, and any plan districts that cover the site where the sign will be
installed. Look at the street classification maps of the Transportation Element
of the Comprehensive Plan to determine whether the site is within a pedestrian
district, and to determine the classifications of streets adjacent to the
Step 2: Determine the use of the site. If the use has not already been
determined as part of a land use review, refer to the descriptions of use
categories in Chapter 33.920 of the Zoning Code. In the Open Space and
Residential zones, as well as in certain plan districts, sign standards are tied
to the land use of the site. In addition, some uses must meet special sign
standards regardless of the location of the site.
Step 3: Look at Chapter 32.32 to determine whether the sign is allowed in
the zone and what standards will apply based on the type of sign and the base
zone of the site.
Step 4: Check Chapter 32.34 to determine whether there are any special
standards that will apply to the sign based on the use or development of the
site, or because the site is covered by an overlay zone or plan district.
What construction standards must be meet?
Look at Chapters 32.42 through 32.44 to determine what
construction standards must be met. In many cases, construction standards are
included through reference to the State Building Code.
Will I need a permit or registration with the Office of
Planning and Development Review?
Check Chapter 32.62 to determine whether you will need to apply
for a permit or register the sign you are proposing.
Will I need to go through any special reviews before I can receive a permit
for my sign?
Chapters 32.30 through 32.38 indicate whether design review or historic
design review will be required. In addition, you may request an adjustment to
one or more of the land use standards.
Chapters 32.40 through 32.44 indicate whether special structural or
electrical review will be required. In addition, you may apply for an
alternative methods review in order to install a sign that will differ from one
or more of the construction standards.
Format of Title 32
Outline. The format of Title 32 follows the layout of all revised Titles
in the City Code. The chapter and section numbers use an expandable decimal
numbering system adopted by the City in 1969. Major divisions within the Title
are called chapters. Major divisions within chapters are called sections. The
format of the divisions in the Title are shown below.
NAME OF CHAPTER
Referencing. Within Title 32, references are made as follows:
Outside of the same section. When a reference is to text outside of the
same section, the reference number starts with the Title number (i.e. 32), and
continues to the appropriate level for the reference. For example, 32.30.010 A.
refers to Subsection A. of Section 010, of Chapter 30, of Title 32. The names
"Title" and "Chapter" are used if the reference is to an entire Title or
Within the same section. When a reference is to text within the same
section, the name of the division level is used (i.e. Subsection, Paragraph,
Subparagraph, etc.), and the reference "number" starts with the appropriate
subsection letter. For example, "See Paragraph D.2., below" refers to Paragraph
2., of Subsection D., of the same section.
The code has been written in a "plain English" style and the meaning is
intended to be clear as read. However, because it is also a legal document and
because of the need for terms with specific meanings, the code also provides
guidance on how specific terms are used. Chapters 32.20, Applying the Code
Language and 32.22, Definitions, define words and phrases that have a specific
meaning in this code.