The Permitting Process

Sign Definition

Any publicly displayed information that is presented in the form of words, symbols and/or pictures and is designed to advertise your business.

Why Permits are Required

Sign permits provide legal permission to post the information above. A permit is required for most permanent, temporary, and promotional signs to ensure that the size, color, and location of the sign comply with the city’s zoning ordinance. The construction and method of attachment of permanent signs must comply with the applicable building codes, Title 24 compliance and an electrical permit is required for illuminated signs.

Our Policy

At Sign Specialists Corporation, we are commonly asked, “To avoid additional costs, added delays or the perceived inconvenience, can we do the project without city permits?” Only licensed sign contractors are eligible to apply for city sign permits. Sign Specialists Corporation is a licensed sign contractor in the State of California (CA License #988048) and we will not put our clients at risk or jeopardize our reputation or status by cutting corners.

The Risks

The principle of caveat emptor which is Latin for “let the buyer beware” applies in any instance where a vendor offers to provide a service in which they are knowingly cutting corners or breaking the law. When permitting is knowingly required and a vendor agrees to or offers to do the work without permitting, they are committing a fraudulent act. Business owners accept the responsibility and expose themselves to risk, by choosing to participate. Anyone who is thinking of accepting the risk should ask themselves, “Would any reputable company be willing to expose their clients to risk and jeopardize their business and contractor’s license?” Once signage is paid for and the sign is installed on your building it is unlikely that the sign vendor will accept responsibility for their part in the wrongdoing. The worst-case scenario is that the customer may be ordered to remove the sign and pay to patch and paint the wall surface, which adds cost and inconvenience with nothing to show for it. How people do anything is how they do everything; it is the habitual nature of people. Business owners should ask themselves, “If the vendor I select is willing to do the work without permits what else are they prepared to do, which isn’t in my best interests as the customer?”

The Permitting Process

Approved Proof(s)

In order to apply for a permit, we must prepare a document commonly referred to as a sign package. A talented Graphic Designer with signage experience will be assigned to your project and they will prepare artwork along with other required documents for the client to review and approve. The proof may go through several revisions before it is acceptable to the client. Once final proof(s) are approved, a sign package will be prepared.

Sign Package

A sign package includes final proof(s), rendering(s) that show placement on the building, satellite (overhead) images highlighting installation location (physical address). After receiving client approval, the sign package is emailed to the property owner, landlord or property manager for approval. The property owner, landlord or property manager will be asked to provide a formal letter of approval that includes their letterhead and address information. After receiving the letter of approval, the sign package is presented to the city (electronically or in person) for review and approval. Although there are slight variations in department names and the process, the information outlined below is a rough example of the work we do on your behalf to get the work permitted.

City Planning Department

The sign package is presented along with completed city documentation and a city planner reviews the paperwork to ensure the design complies with the city’s sign ordinance. Illuminated signs are subject to a greater degree of scrutiny. The planner may request modifications to the design.


This step in the process focuses on how the signage will be installed and attached to the building (building signs) or permanently placed in the ground (monument or pylon signs). For more complex projects that require engineering, they will review structural engineering schematics that are provided or request them. In cases where they request engineering, additional time and fees will be required to have the documentation prepared. Once ready, the documentation will have to be resubmitted.


At the final stage of permitting, city staff verify property owner, landlord and/or property manager authorization, plus business license and/or certificate of occupancy. They will also check on the status of other permits to verify there are no outstanding issues associated with the property.


Once installed we notify the city and schedule a date and time for them to have an inspector come to the job site to verify that the sign installation complies with the plans approved by permitting. A Sign Specialists Corporation representative will be present to have city documentation signed. For illuminated sign inspections, building access is mandatory.

Fees for Permitting

Sign Specialists Corporation permit specialists handle the permit process from end to end. At a minimum, the process requires preparation of drawings and permit application, approval by the Planning Department, Building Department and Permit Processing, and a final inspection following installation of the sign. Any one of these steps may require multiple trips, in the event that changes are requested. Our policy is to quote a fixed price for permitting, regardless of the number of trips or the amount of time that may end up being required to obtain permits and then final inspection. The fees noted in your quotation are for preparing ‘Permit Documentation’ and the ‘Permit Processing Service’ which includes several interactions with the city.

In addition, Cities will charge additional fees during the permit process. We will do our best to provide an estimate of these fees at the start of the project, but we cannot be certain of the exact amount until the process is complete. As we obtain the permits, we will pay those fees on your behalf, and then adjust the final invoice. We do not mark up the city permit fees.

If you have any questions about the permitting process, or the fees and charges that are involved, please ask. We will do everything possible to clarify the process, and to let you know in advance the timeline and the costs of the process. While it may sound complicated (and it can be), we have a long and successful track record of obtaining permits in most Southern California cities, and we will handle your permits as expeditiously as possible.