Sign In
City of Philadelphia

Signs, Awnings, Canopies, etc.

Most signs that need approval by the Art Commission also require a Sign Permit, issued by the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I). Existing signs that do not have a valid sign license, where needed, must follow the same application procedures as for new signs. Applicants should begin by securing the necessary application forms and confirming required prerequisite approvals from the Permit Issuance Section of the Department of Licenses and Inspections. The completed application, along with any other required materials should be returned to L&I.
At the same time, the applicant should forward a separate package containing the following to the Art Commission:

1. A cover letter containing:

  • a brief description, including number and types of signs, dimensions and materials, of the sign(s), awning(s), etc. for which approval is sought. Please specify whether signs are proposed or existing;
  • the name, mailing address and e-mail address of the person to whom the decision should be sent and who can answer questions about the application.
*For submissions requiring multiple copies of the package, please remember that the letter must be included in each copy.

2. Color photographs, taken at the time of submission, of each of the following views of the building or site and its surroundings. (Online street views are not acceptable because they may be years old, not showing current conditions.)

  • the entire building facade or site .***
  • adjacent building or site to the right and left**
  • view down the block to the right and left**
  • view across the street**
  • for signs proposed to be seen from a distance, views from intended points of view.

* Photographs must be taken at the time of application. Older photographs may be used only to show a former condition, with explanation.
** If the property is located on a corner, include views of both streets.
*** If the building has security gates, photos must be submitted showing them in the opened and closed positions.

3. Working drawing(s) of the actual design, drawn to scale, with all dimensions, materials,
and colors clearly labeled, and fonts, logos, etc. accurately portrayed, showing exactly how the sign is proposed to look.

4. A perspective drawing or overlay showing the sign in its exact location on the building or site.*
* If the sign already exists, photos showing the actual sign should be submitted instead of the drawings described in #'s 3 & 4.

5. Plot plan showing the relation of sign(s) to property lines.

6. Sidewalk section drawing for projecting signs, with dimensions showing the distance from the sidewalk to the bottom of the sign, the total width of the sidewalk and the amount of projection beyond the building and/or property line

7. Proof of other required approvals. Where approvals are required from the Historical
Commission and/or the City Planning Commission for the proposed sign(s) or
accompanying facade alterations, those approvals should be obtained first. Drawings
stamped with their approval(s) should be used for the Art Commission submission, or if
applicable, a copy of the approval letter(s) included.

In some cases the Art Commission staff may request additional information such as color and material samples or more detailed drawings.
Review Process:
Routine sign proposals that meet zoning requirements, except in Center City, may be approved by the Commission staff. One copy of the submission package should be submitted. The applicant will receive written notice of decision by mail.

All proposals for signs in Center City (the area bounded by the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, South and Spring Garden Streets, and South Broad Street to Washington Avenue), skyline signs (building identification signs at or near the tops of tall buildings) and proposals which the staff determine to be non-routine will be referred to the Commission’s Sign Committee. This Committee, made up of representatives of the Art and Planning Commissions, meets the third Wednesday morning of each month. The Committee’s recommendations are made to the Art Commission at its next regular meeting on the following first Wednesday. Applicants should check the calendar on the Commission’s website to confirm meeting dates. In order to be included on the agenda for a meeting, applicants must submit a written request, including a description of the proposal, to staff at least two weeks prior to the meeting date. Three (3) hard copies and one (1) PDF of the submission package described above, along with any additional information requested by staff, must be submitted no later than one week before the meeting for distribution to the Committee members. Copies must be collated into 3 packages and folded, if necessary, to 8½” x 11''. Note, each package must include a copy of the descriptive cover letter! The PDF should be a single file if possible.

Applicants’ attendance at the Committee meeting is optional, however for non-routine proposals it is recommended. Applicants who choose to attend may bring larger scale displays and material samples to the meeting if they choose. Applicants will be told the Committee’s recommendation at the meeting, followed by a written confirmation. Applicants who disagree with the Committee’s recommendation may attend the Commission meeting to appeal. A letter requesting to appeal must be submitted no later than one week before the Commission meeting date in order to be included on the agenda. Applicants will receive written confirmation of the Commission’s final decision.

Routine sign proposals outside of Center City which the staff determines to be inappropriate will be disapproved by staff. Applicants wishing to appeal such disapprovals may do so by presenting to Sign Committee. Applicants should follow the directions in the previous paragraphs for submitting to the Committee.

Art Commission decision notices are sent to the applicant only. It is the applicant’s responsibility to submit the notice to the Department of Licenses and Inspections to complete the permit process.

The Commission and its staff have up to 60 days to act on any matter for which a complete application package has been submitted to them, after which approval may be presumed. Incomplete submissions will be considered abandoned after 60 days.

No sign should be ordered, fabricated or installed until notice of approval is received. Applicants should avoid making non-refundable deposits to manufacturers for specific types of signs until a positive response is received from the Commission. If an installation varies in any manner from what was approved, the Commission will request appropriate action by the Department of Licenses and Inspections.