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Zoning, planning & development

Apply for sign, awning, or canopy approval from the Art Commission

If you want to place a sign on a building in certain locations or in the right-of-way, you must submit a proposal to the Art Commission. The Art Commission will review the design and location of your proposal.

Art Commission approval is a prerequisite for some sign permits. You should begin by contacting the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I). They will inform you of all prerequisite approvals needed for your application.

Overview

1
Check with L&I

Check with L&I to find out about any prerequisites.

2
Submission

Send your submission materials to the Art Commission.

3
Staff review

Art Commission staff will review your proposal. They will determine the next steps and if additional reviews are necessary.

4
Approval

Some proposals may be approved or rejected by staff without further review. More complex proposals, and proposals in Center City, will be reviewed by the Sign Committee before being approved or rejected by the Art Commission.

Submission materials

All proposals must include a cover letter, photographs, renderings, and supporting materials. Other information may be requested.

Cover letter

Your cover letter must:

  • Describe the number and types of signs, including their dimensions and materials.
  • Specify whether you are proposing new signs or if they already exist.
  • Include the name, mailing address, and email address of the person who should receive the commission’s decision.
  • Include the name, phone number, and email address of your contact person. This person should be able to answer questions about the application.

Photographs

You must include current 3 in. x 5 in. color photographs of the site and its surroundings. Do not use online street views.

These pictures should show:

  • The entire building facade or site.
  • Any security gates in the opened and closed positions.
  • The buildings or sites to the right and left.
  • The view down the block to the right and left.
  • The view across the street.
  • Views of both adjacent streets, if the property is on a corner.
  • Views from the intended points of view, for signs that will be seen from a distance.

Renderings

You must include scale working drawings of the design. All dimensions, materials, and colors must be labeled. Submissions typically include:

  • A perspective drawing or photo overlay (in color) that shows the sign on the building or site. If the sign already exists, you should submit photos instead of drawings.
  • A plot plan showing the relation of the sign to the property lines.

For signs that extend over the sidewalk, you should also include a drawing that shows:

  • The distance from the sidewalk to the bottom of the sign.
  • The total width of the sidewalk.
  • How far the sign extends over the sidewalk.

Supporting materials

You must include proof of other required approvals from the City. Submit the drawings stamped with their approval or include their letter of approval.

Where and when

Submit a package of the submission materials by email to artcommission@phila.gov, or to:

Philadelphia Art Commission
1515 Arch St., 13th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Review process

Commission staff may approve or reject some proposals without further review. You may appeal a rejection by presenting to the Sign Committee.

Staff will refer these types of proposals to the Sign Committee:

  • Signs in Center City (between 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).
  • Complex proposals.

Staff review

Once you receive approval, you must submit the notice to the Department of Licenses and Inspections to complete the permit process.

You should not order, fabricate, or install any sign until you receive approval. If a sign varies from the approved proposal, the commission will report it to L&I.

You may appeal a routine rejection by presenting to the Sign Committee.

Sign Committee review

The Sign Committee meets the third Wednesday morning of each month. The Sign Committee makes its recommendations at the Art Commission’s next regular meeting.

To place an item on the agenda, staff must receive a written request with a description of the proposal at least two weeks before a meeting. Staff must receive three hard copies and a PDF of the submission package at least one week before a meeting. Collate copies into three packages. Fold them to 8.5 in. x 11 in. if necessary. Each package must include a copy of the cover letter. The PDF should be a single file if possible.

Attendance at the meeting is optional. Staff can provide guidance as to whether attendance is recommended. You may bring displays and material samples to the meeting. The committee will make its recommendation to the Art Commission at the meeting, followed by a written confirmation.

If you disagree with the committee’s recommendation, you may attend the Art Commission meeting to appeal. You must submit a letter requesting to appeal at least one week before the commission meeting date. You will receive written confirmation of the commission’s final decision.

Once you receive approval, you must submit the notice to the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) to complete the permit process.

You should not order, fabricate, or install any sign until you receive approval. If a sign varies from the approved proposal, the commission will report it to L&I, who may issue a zoning violation.


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