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§ 9-602. Outdoor Advertising. 744
(1) Legislative Findings. The Council finds that:
(a) Existing regulations have done little to prevent the City-wide proliferation of commercial outdoor advertising signs nor to provide for an adequate source of funding to administer the issuance of permits, licenses and violations for or inspections of these signs.
(b) The excessive number of commercial outdoor advertising signs contribute to visual clutter and detract from the aesthetic beauty of the City of Philadelphia.
(c) The proliferation of commercial outdoor advertising signs contribute to the appearance of deterioration in residential, commercial and industrial areas of the City and therefore negatively impact upon the economic viability of these areas.
(d) Said signs jeopardize public safety by distracting pedestrians and to a greater extent passing motorists, since these signs by their nature are erected in areas intended to be seen by drivers of motor vehicles.
(e) There exist throughout every area of the City numerous illegally erected commercial outdoor advertising signs that negatively impact upon the general welfare of those neighborhoods.
(f) Because large numbers of these signs exist without benefit of permits or licenses they do not pay existing licensing fees.
(g) Studies of these existing illegal commercial outdoor advertising signs indicate that these signs, especially when they are located within or adjacent to low to moderate income residential neighborhoods, are used at a disproportionately high rate to advertise liquor, beer and cigarettes.
(h) Current regulations do not facilitate an easy determination of the permit or license status of these signs because it is not required that these signs and/or their structures have indication of current licenses affixed thereto.
(i) Current regulations do not sufficiently or adequately penalize individuals or companies that erect and maintain outdoor advertising signs in violation of City ordinances.
(j) It is necessary and desirable to impose additional regulations and license fees to limit the proliferation of these signs, to cause the removal of the existing illegal signs, to fund the administration of these regulations and to facilitate determination of the license and permit status of these signs.
(2) Definitions. In this Section the following definitions apply:
(a) Accessory Sign. A sign which directs attention to information, identification, or advertisements strictly incidental to a lawful use of the premises on which it is located. This includes signs or devices indicating the business transacted, services rendered, goods sold, or produced on the premises; and, name or emblem of a person, firm, institution, organization or activity occupying the premises.
(b) Commercial Sign. A sign containing copy that relates primarily to the economic interests of the publisher or its audience or directs attention to a business, industry, profession, commodity, service, activity, institution, product or entertainment offered for sale.
(c) Non-Accessory Sign. A sign which directs attention to a business, industry, profession, commodity, service organization, activity, institution, business, product or entertainment neither sold, located nor offered upon the property where the sign is situated.
(d) Non-Commercial Sign. A sign containing copy that does not relate primarily to the economic interests of the publisher or its audience nor directs attention to a business, industry, profession, commodity, service, activity, institution, product or entertainment offered for sale.
(e) Outdoor Advertising Sign. A non-accessory sign, but excluding: advertising matter displayed on operative currently registered motor vehicles or on pedestrians; accessory advertising matter displayed on newsstands; information required by law or ordinance to be placed on structures; notice to the public that a property is for sale or rent; a sign owned and sponsored by a community, civic or charitable organization; a sign identifying a company performing on-site construction; and On-Site Public Art.
(f) Sign. A name, identification, description, emblem, display, or device which is affixed to, or printed on, or represented directly or indirectly upon a building, structure, or parcel of land; which is illuminated or non- illuminated; visible or intended to be visible from any public place; and, which directs attention to a person, place, product, institution, business, organization, activity or service. Signs also include any permanently installed or situate merchandise, including any banner, pennant, placard or temporary sign, with the exception of window displays and national flags.
(g) Sign Support Structure. Any column, upright, brace or construction situate upon the ground, a building or another structure the purpose of which is to support a sign or sign message.
(h) On-site Public Art. Artwork such as a painting or mural that is permanent (i.e. lasting the life of the building); original; created specifically for the site; and is not primarily intended to advertise a product or service.
(3) No person shall erect or maintain any outdoor advertising sign unless he or she has obtained a license for such sign from the Department. Applications for such licenses shall be made on a form provided by the Department. Such licenses shall be issued and renewed for terms of five years. A single license shall be issued for multiple signs that share a common sign support structure. 745
(4) Licenses for Outdoor Advertising Signs. 746 No license shall be issued or renewed unless:
(a) The Department finds that the Outdoor advertising signs and their sign support structures, if any, which are proposed to be erected or which are erected or maintained are to be, or have been constructed in conformity with all codes and that all proper permits, including any required zoning permits, have been secured.
(b) To the extent that the applicant, or the applicant's authorized representative proposes to erect or maintain a sign or sign structure which extends in any manner into or above a public street, highway or right-of-way, the applicant or the applicant's authorized representative agrees to comply with the terms of the license and to indemnify the City against any liability by reason of granting the license, and files a continuing bond for the sign satisfactory to the Law Department, and obtains any necessary approval from City Council for an encroachment into the public right-of-way.
(c) The applicant pays a license fee in accordance with the following:
(.1) For commercial signs,
(.a) For the licensing period beginning April 1, 2015 through and including June 30, 2015, an annual fee of six hundred fifty dollars ($650) for each outdoor advertising sign face. The fee shall be pro-rated through June 30, 2015, for any partial license year.
(.b) From July 1, 2015, and thereafter, a five year fee of fifty cents ($0.50) per square foot of outdoor advertising sign face for the first five year period, and one dollar ($1.00) per square foot of each outdoor advertising sign face for each five year period thereafter, or such other amounts as the Department may from time to time by regulation determine, provided such amount shall not exceed the cost of administering and enforcing the provisions of this Code relating to outdoor advertising signs.
(.2) For non-commercial signs, no fee. In the event any commercial messages are displayed on the sign during the term of the license, the applicant shall be responsible for payment of the commercial license fee for the entire term.
(d) The applicant submits to the Department with its license application an inventory listing each outdoor advertising sign structure that the applicant owns or maintains in the City. The inventory shall identify for each listed sign structure:
(.1) the address and account number (as maintained by the Office of Property Assessment) of the property on which the sign structure is located, the name of the owner of such property, and the latitude and longitude coordinates, stated in North America decimal degrees to a minimum precision of five decimal places, of the location on the property where the sign is situated;
(.2) the number of sign faces and the area of each sign face, and a unique inventory number for each sign face as assigned by the applicant;
(.3) the number of supporting columns or uprights or supporting mechanisms or identification of such other construction situated upon the ground, a building or another structure, the purpose of which is to support a sign face; and a notation as to whether the sign face is affixed to a wall, a roof or is freestanding, and whether the sign is digital;
(.4) the road surface from which the sign is intended to be principally viewed, which must be within 350 feet of the sign (once a license is issued, the licensee, for the duration of the license period and any renewal periods, may not claim a different road surface as the one from which the sign is intended to be principally viewed);
(.5) the height of each sign face, as measured from the base of the sign; and the height of each sign face as measured from the height of the road surface from which the sign is intended to be principally viewed;
(.6) the permit numbers of any permits that have previously been issued with respect to such sign, if any, including zoning and building permits;
(.7) the date the sign was last inspected by the Department, or, if the date of last inspection is unknown or if the sign has never been inspected by the Department, evidence of the date of last inspection by the sign owner or the owner's agent and a certification that at the time of such last inspection by the sign owner or the owner's agent, the sign, supports, braces, guys, anchors and foundations were in good condition; and
(.8) a certification that, to the best of the owner's or agent's knowledge, the sign, supports, braces, guys, anchors, and foundations remain in good condition.
(e) The applicant does not have any outstanding violations, for which all legal appeals have been exhausted, nor any outstanding court orders requiring the removal of any sign(s) for which all legal appeals have been exhausted, for erecting and/or maintaining outdoor advertising signs in violation of The Philadelphia Code.
(f) The applicant or the applicant's representative affixes on each sign and/or sign structure information indicating the owner of the sign and (if applicable) the individual or company responsible for erecting and/or maintaining the sign and/or sign structure.
(g) The applicant, the owner of the sign, and the owner of the premises upon which the sign is placed or to be placed are current in the payment of all City and School District taxes or have entered into an agreement(s) to pay any delinquent taxes and are abiding by the terms of such agreement(s).
(5) Reserved. 747
(6) License Tags. 748 Applicants shall provide a license tag to be affixed to each sign face. Each tag shall be of a size and color so as to be easily read from the footway and/or street or highway. The tag shall contain the inventory number associated with that sign face as included in the inventory submitted under subsection (4)(d) and shall be affixed to the sign by the applicant so that it is visible from the footway and/or street or highway. The Department may further detail the requirements of this subsection by regulation.
(a) The Department of Licenses and Inspections shall inspect all outdoor advertising signs erected, constructed, or maintained under the provisions of this Section to ensure that they comply with all other appropriate Sections of The Philadelphia Code, including the licensure requirement imposed by this Section.
(b) The owner of any outdoor advertising sign that is affixed or fastened to the ground or to a building with a supporting sign structure shall submit a report by a registered professional engineer who has inspected the sign and its supporting structure to ensure that it is structurally sound. The Department of Licenses and Inspections is authorized to adopt appropriate regulations for the content and format of such reports. Reports shall be submitted on the following schedule, or on such other schedule as the Department shall promulgate:
(.1) For signs erected prior to January 1, 2007, the owner shall submit a report in December, 2006, and in December of every fifth subsequent year.
(.2) For signs erected on or after January 1, 2007, the owner shall submit a report five years after the initial license for the sign is issued, in the same calendar month in which such license was issued; and in the same calendar month of every fifth subsequent year.
(8) Public Nuisance. Any sign and/or sign structure which does not conform in the requirements of this Section is hereby declared a public nuisance.
(a) Except as provided in subsection 9-602(9)(c) below, whenever any sign is erected and/or maintained in violation of the provisions of this Chapter or of the regulations promulgated under it, the Department of Licenses and Inspections shall serve written notice of such violations upon the violator, directing compliance within thirty (30) days of the receipt of the notice of violation. In the case of unlicensed outdoor advertising signs where ownership cannot be determined or notice cannot be delivered, the Department of Licenses and Inspections shall place a violation notice upon the sign and/or sign structure.
(b) After expiration of the time for compliance as stated on the notice of violation (thirty (30) days), if the violation has not been corrected, the Department of Licenses and Inspections may itself or by contract remove the offending sign. The costs incurred by the Department shall be charged against the person owning such offending sign or against the bond posted by the individual or company that owns or erected and maintains the offending sign. If the sign was unlicensed or abandoned, the property owner on whose premises the sign is located shall be responsible for the cost of removal.
(c) If any violation of the provisions of this Chapter results in an immediate peril to persons or property, the Department of Licenses and Inspections may require immediate compliance. If such compliance is not forthcoming, the Department may without other notice, in addition to invoking any other sanction or remedial procedure provided, apply with the approval of the Law Department to any Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia for relief by injunction or restraining order.
(d) The owner of any sign or sign structure shall immediately remove any advertising or other copy from any sign structure where a license for such sign has either not been issued or has been revoked. In the event that the advertising or other copy is not removed, the Department itself or by contract may remove the copy, and any costs incurred by the Department shall be charged against the owner of the sign or sign structure.
(10) Penalties. 749
(a) Any violation of this Section shall constitute a Class III offense and shall be subject to the fines set forth in subsection 1-109(3) of The Philadelphia Code for each offense. Each day this Section is violated shall be deemed a separate offense for which a separate penalty may be imposed.
(b) Unlicensed companies engaged in sign installation or maintenance and sign companies that are delinquent in the payment of annual license fees shall be subject to a Cease Operations Order subsequent to an administrative hearing conducted by the Department. The Cease Operations Order shall include the company's trucks, buildings, equipment and supplies.
(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 effect or impair any of the remaining provisions, sentences, clauses, sections or part 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.
Source: 1938 Ordinances, p. 304; amended, 1991 Ordinances, p. 45; amended, Bill No. 050453 (approved June 15, 2005).
Deleted, Bill No. 130656-AA (approved July 1, 2015).
Amended, Bill No. 758 (approved July 24, 1995), 1995 Ordinances, p. 1081.