What Twitter Should Have Known About San Francisco Sign Permitting

On Monday, officials from the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) observed the removal of a new illuminated sign, shaped as “X”, from the building previously recognized as Twitter’s headquarters. Twitter was recently rebranded as X, but then not, but sort of still is … the saga is a bit hard to follow.

Regardless, the forced sign removal is a direct consequence of a notice of violation (NOV) issued on Friday to the company.

Essentially, Twitter had installed a new sign on the side of their building without proper permission or inspection. The SF DBI and City Planning received 24 complaints about this unpermitted structure, which included concerns regarding its structural safety and the fact that it flashed all night.

According to Patrick Hannan, the spokesman for the DBI, the company was issued an NOV for work without a permit. Inspectors subsequently monitored the structure being dismantled on Monday morning.

Normally, a building permit is required to remove a structure. But, in this situation the permit will need to be secured after the sign’s removal because of safety concerns.

The property owner will be assessed fees for the unpermitted installation, including the costs related to building permits for both the installation and removal of the structure. This will also cover the investigation costs from the Department of Building Inspection and the Planning Department.

These fines will not be insignificant. 


What Buildings Need to Know About Sign Permitting in San Francisco?

San Francisco has stringent guidelines for sign permitting to maintain safety, aesthetic appeal, and community standards. 

According to the SF planning department, “A permit is required to install, replace, reconstruct, expand, intensify, or relocate any sign unless it is specifically exempted from the regulations. ” 

There are a number of aspects reviewed as part of a sign permit in San Francisco:

  • Type of sign: Wall, projecting, awnings, window, free-standing and roof signs. 
  • Illumination: Standard, nonilluminated, indirectly illuminated, and directly illuminated. 
  • Measurements: Area, height, and projections (how far the furthest part of the sign is away from the building. 
  • Historic characteristics: Historic buildings, historic districts, vintage signage. 

There are certain types of signs that do not require permits, including temporary signs, changing copy on a sign, or a sign painted on a door or window. An enormous ‘X’ does not fall into any of those categories. 

Here is a link to the document detailing San Francisco’s general planning information for signs.

How to get a sign permit in San Francisco

To get a sign permit, Twitter should have submitted a permit application with the Central Permit Bureau of the SF Department of Building Inspection. It also needed to submit a permit fee and submit the following documents: 

  • A plot plan illustrating the proposed sign’s placement, along with the locations and sizes of all existing signs on the premises. The measurements of the business’s frontage facing the public road and sidewalk should be clearly marked.
  • Front and side elevation sketches of the building, displaying the sign, and including specifics such as dimensions, materials, and any other construction details required based on the type of sign.
  • Intricate illustrations of the text or graphics planned for the proposed sign.
  • Images capturing the whole area under consideration.

The next time Twitter wants to install a giant, flashing X on the top of their San Francisco headquarters, hopefully they call a permit expeditor who can make them aware of the rules and requirements of a sign permit, and then help get the permit approved. 

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