§14-1604.1. Special Sign Controls for Area Surrounding the Vine Street Parkway and Benjamin Franklin Bridge Approach. [244]


(1) Legislative Findings. The Council finds that:

(a) Major public and private investments have been made and continue to be made in the Vine Street Parkway and surrounding areas to improve traffic safety, enhance visual aesthetics, preserve nearby historic and cultural districts, prevent declining property values and encourage economic investment, tourism and the economic vitality of Philadelphia and, in particular, Center City. To date, these public and private expenditures represent a combined investment totalling over one billion ($1,000,000,000) dollars.

(b) Public expenditures have included appropriations for improved vehicular access, street and sidewalk improvements and landscaping. Also, massive reconstruction of the roadway and bridges comprising the Vine Street Parkway has been initiated in a joint effort by local, State and Federal government agencies. When completed, this five-year project will convert the Parkway into a modern state of the art access road on the Federal Interstate Highway System.

(c) Private investments within or immediately adjacent to this area include the Market Street East improvements, the proposed Center City Convention Center, the Gallery shopping complex, Franklintown, the rehabilitation and restoration of Chinatown and nearby residential neighborhoods and the construction of new office building complexes.

(d) The present and future investments have and will continue to raise the ambiance and overall appearance of the Vine Street Parkway to that of such parallel roadways as the Benjamin Franklin Parkway and the Roosevelt Boulevard and will increase the Parkway’s prominence as a major gateway to the City and its historic, cultural and commercial districts.

(e) Consistent with its function as a major gateway to and from the City, traffic studies, commissioned by the City Planning Commission, indicate that immediately prior to the commencement of reconstruction, traffic volume on the Vine Street Parkway averaged eighty thousand (80,000) vehicles per day. Following the completion of construction, this already heavy volume is expected to increase to an estimated one hundred twenty thousand (120,000) vehicles per day.

(f) Within this area, there are a number of unsightly signs, including non-accessory outdoor advertising signs, which detract from the aesthetic beauty of the area, contribute to visual clutter and jeopardize public safety by distracting passing motorists and pedestrians.

(g) Within this area, there are currently approximately seventy-eight (78) non-accessory outdoor advertising signs. Of this total, approximately twenty-five (25) are non-conforming signs under other provisions of this Title. Despite provisions of this Title which encourage the discontinuance of non-conforming uses, very few outdoor advertising signs have been removed.

(h) There are few, if any, circumstances under which the prohibition of these signs will render property valueless, result in unnecessary hardship or otherwise meet the criteria for a variance stated in Section 14-1802.

(i) Regulation and removal of signs will promote traffic safety in the area by eliminating the hazards to pedestrians and motorists posed by distracting and confusing sign displays.

(j) Regulation and removal of signs will enhance the aesthetic beauty of this area by promoting signs that are harmonious with the streetscape and eliminating signs which dominate or obscure views of the City.

(k) Regulation and removal of signs will protect the public and private investment in this area and promote the economic development and commercial revitalization of this area and nearby historic, cultural and commercial districts.

(l) Circumstances similar to those described above have caused Council to bar most outdoor advertising and non-accessory signs along and/or within the following: the major gateway approaches and bridges leading to Center City; the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Southwark and Mainstreet Manayunk National Historic Districts; and nine (9) commercial revitalization areas located throughout the City.

(m) Therefore, special sign controls providing for the removal of unsightly, distracting signs and setting forth the requirements for acceptable signage are required to promote traffic safety, protect view corridors, minimize sight pollution and protect the historic, cultural, aesthetic and economic vitality of this area.

(2) Definitions. In this Section, the following definitions shall apply:

(a) Accessory Sign. A sign containing copy which directs attention to information, identification or advertisements strictly incidental to a lawful use of the premises on which the sign is located. This includes signs or devices indicating the business transacted, services rendered, goods sold or produced on the premises and the name or emblem of the person, firm, institution, organization, or activity occupying the premises.

(b) Building Logo Sign. An accessory sign containing copy limited to an identification of the building on which the sign is located, including corporate logos, building names, company names or addresses.

(c) Non-Commercial Sign. A sign containing copy limited to a lawful message that does not relate primarily to the economic interests of the publisher or its audience or direct attention to a business, industry, profession or commodity, product or service offered for sale.

(3) Vine Street Parkway Area.

(a) For the purposes of this ordinance, the Vine Street Parkway area shall be that bounded by: the south side of Spring Garden street, projected to the pierhead line of the Delaware River and projected to the pierhead line of the Schuylkill River; the pierhead line of the Schuylkill River to the north side of Race street; the north side of Race street, from the pierhead line of the Schuylkill River projected to the pierhead line of the Delaware River; and the pierhead line of the Delaware River to the south side of Spring Garden street.

(b) No sign shall be erected or altered on any building, structure or land located within the Vine Street Parkway area unless the sign complies with the special sign controls stated in this Section.

(4) Existing Sign Controls. For the purposes of this Section, when sign controls on any building, structure or upon any land located within the Vine Street Parkway area are more restrictive through other provisions of this Title, this Section shall not be interpreted as superseding those provisions.

(5) Signs Controls. All signs as defined by Section 14-102(86)(a) to (l) shall be prohibited on any building, structure or upon any land located within the Vine Street Parkway area, except as follows:

(a) Flat wall accessory and flat wall non-commercial signs shall be permitted at a ratio of two (2) square feet of sign area per lineal foot of street frontage. The top of such flat wall signs shall not extend above the bottom of the second floor of the building on which it is located.

(b) Accessory and non-commercial signs which are free-standing structures on the ground shall be permitted at a height not to exceed fifteen (15) feet, measured from the average level of the ground to the top of said structure. Free-standing signs shall be permitted a maximum of two (2) sign facings and a maximum of sixteen (16) square feet for each sign facing.

(c) Building logo signs and non-commercial signs which are located above the bottom of the second floor shall be permitted upon approval by the Art Commission; provided, that the Art Commission shall have sixty (60) days to take action after which its approval shall be presumed. The approval of the Art Commission must take into account the impact of the proposed signage on the skyline and view corridors of Center City and the visual aesthetics of the area. Any sign contrary to the goals and objectives of this Ordinance shall be disapproved.

(d) Within the area bounded by the west side of Ninth street, the south side of Winter street, the east side of Eleventh street, and the north side of Race street, projecting accessory and projecting non-commercial signs shall be permitted at a ratio of two (2) square feet of sign area per lineal foot of street frontage. Such signs are in addition to the signs permitted in paragraphs (5)(a) through (5)(c). Such projecting signs shall be subject to Art Commission approval as required by law.

(e) Highway directional signs as defined in Section 14-102(86)(c) shall be permitted.

(f) Temporary signs providing notice to the public that a property is for sale or for rent shall be permitted so long as such signs do not exceed a total gross area of twenty-five (25) square feet. Temporary non-commercial signs of equivalent size shall also be permitted.

(6) Grace Period to Remove Prohibited Signs.

(a) Any sign in existence which does not conform to this Section shall be required to be removed five (5) years after the effective date of this Ordinance; provided, that in the case of signs subject to the Federal Highway Beautification Act, as amended, 23 U.S.C. Section 131 and the State Outdoor Advertising Control Act of 1971, as amended, 36 P.S. Section 2718.101 et seq., in the event such Acts are amended following the passage of this Ordinance, the five (5) year grace period may be shortened or extended in conformity with those Acts. It is further provided that no sign subject to the aforementioned Federal and State Acts shall be required to be removed until such time as compensation as defined by those Acts is no longer required thereby. Thereafter, such signs shall be removed without compensation to any interested party in accordance with the provisions of this subsection.

(b) Nothing in this subsection is intended to prohibit the Department of Licenses and Inspections from removing a sign at any time without compensation which has been determined to be a public nuisance or unlawfully in existence under any other provision of The Philadelphia Code.

(7) Continuance of Prohibited signs During Grace Period. Within the grace period provided in subsection (6), a prohibited sign shall be maintained in good condition, but it shall not be structurally altered so as to enlarge or extend the area or height of the sign. However, no prohibited sign shall be reconstructed if for any reason it becomes necessary to replace the entire sign, including the sign face, the frame and any supporting mechanism, but excluding the foundation.

(8) Prohibition of Pending Permits. No permit shall be issued for any sign which will be subject to the provisions of this Section after December 15, 1987, the date Bill No. 1252, predecessor to this legislation, was voted favorably out of the Rules Committee of City Council, following advertisement in two (2) local newspapers of general circulation.

(9) Enforcement. Whenever any sign is erected, altered, used or maintained in violation of this Section, the Department of Licenses and Inspections shall have the authority to enforce and direct compliance with the provisions of this Section as provided in Section 14-2020.

(10) Penalties. In addition to any other sanction or remedial procedure provided, the penalty for violation of any provision of this Section shall be a fine not exceeding one hundred fifty ($150.00) dollars for each offense, and may include imprisonment not exceeding thirty (30) days if the fine is not paid within ten (10) days. Continuous violation of the same provision shall be a separate violation for each day.

(11) Severability. If any provision, sentence, clause, section or part of this Ordinance is for any reason found to be unconstitutional, illegal or invalid, such unconstitutionality, illegality or invalidity shall not affect or impair any of the remaining provisions, sentences, clauses, sections or parts of this Ordinance. It is the intent of the City Council that this Ordinance would have been adopted had such unconstitutional, illegal or invalid provision, sentence, clause, section or part thereof not been included herein.