Vital Signs: For planners and local officials who draft, debate and enforce sign ordinances
Posted on April 5, 2019

Regulating Historic Signs

neon pool signHistoric signs represent small businesses, neighborhood gathering places where generations have met to watch movies, drink martinis, buy groceries, and even park cars.

The surviving historic signs that shine in the California landscape cut across almost all cultures and lifestyles. These signs are a bridge between the past and present. They often are community landmarks.

What are the best practices to preserve and restore these neighborhood icons?

During a presentation on Friday, April 5th, the authors and photographers of San Francisco Neon: Survivors and Lost Icons took a look at two iconic signs in the Bay Area and the struggle to preserve and restore them.

This session also investigated regulatory and policy approaches in San Francisco and southern California jurisdictions, and attendees shared their favorite historic signs.

This webcast, titled “Regulating Historic Signs,” was hosted by APA's County Planning Division. It was moderated by James Carpentier, AICP, the director of state and local government affairs for the International Sign Association. The panelists included:

  • Al Barna and Randall Ann Homan, San Francisco Neon/Historic Neon Network
  • Lannette M. Schwartz, MHC, Historic Sign Conservation, Consultant
  • Stephanie Cisneros, Preservation Planner, San Francisco Planning Department

For those who attended this presentation and would like to download copies of these resources, please enter your email to download each of the following:

Slide deck cover Presentation Slide Deck from “Regulating Historic Signs”
saving neon cover Saving Neon: A Best Practices Guide
burbank cover Burbank Sign Ordinance Regulations
tuscon cover Tuscon’s Historic Landmark Sign Ordinance – One Year Later


 If you missed this presentation, you can catch it at the American Planning Association (APA) National Planning Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, April 16th.  

Topics: APA

Free resources

  • Night-time Brightness Level Recommendations for On-Premise Electronic Message Centers
  • Statistical Analysis of the Relationship Between On-Premise Digital Signage and Traffic Safety
  • Executive Summary: Digital Signage and Traffic Safety
  • Finding Common Ground: Answers to Common Questions about Electronic Message Centers (EMCs)
  • Differences between On-Premise and Off-Premise Signs
  • Video Examples of EMC Hold Times
  • Model Sign Code: A Framework for On-Premise Sign Regulations
  • An Evidence Based Model Sign Code
  • Signs and Federal Laws of Protection
  • Building Stronger Communities: Working Together to Create Reasonable Sign Codes
  • Urban Wayfinding Planning and Implementation Manual
  • Best Practices in Regulating Temporary Signs
  • The State of Sign Codes after Reed v. Town of Gilbert
  • The Economic Value of On-Premise Signage (1997, San Diego)
  • The Economic Value of On-Premise Signage (2012, Cincinnati)
  • Signs and the Downtown Experience
  • Executive Summary: The Economic Value of On-Premise Signage
  • Executive Summary: Signs and the Downtown Experience
ISA Planning for Sign Code SuccessTM
David Hickey, VP Advocacy

David Hickey
VP, Advocacy

James Carpentier, AICP

James Carpentier, AICP
Director, State & Local Goverment

Kenny Peskin

Kenny Peskin
Director, Industry Programs | @signcodeguy


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