Update to the Oakland Advertising Signs Ordinance (Billboards)

The City of Oakland is considering amending the existing Advertising Signs Ordinance to permit new advertising signs in limited areas immediately adjacent to Interstates 80, 580, and 880.

Caltrans Regulations

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) regulates advertising signs that are visible from highways and freeways in accordance with the Federal Highway Beautification Act and the California Outdoor Advertising Act (ODA).

The Outdoor Advertising Act and Regulations require:

  • 500 foot separation from another permitted billboard on the same side of the freeway
  • Electronic billboards must be at least 1,000 feet from another permitted electronic billboard
  • Maximum height of the advertising display area is 25 feet and maximum length is 60 feet and does not exceed 1,200 square feet in size

Caltrans Licenses and Permits

Caltrans requires that applicants obtain a license to operate an outdoor advertising display and a permit for a specific location(s) of proposed advertising signs. Click here for Caltrans website with more information.

Draft City Regulations

Oakland is considering amending certain parts of Titles 14 and 17 of the Oakland Municipal Code (OMC) to establish regulations for 1) a new Advertising Sign Combining Zone, 2) Advertising Sign Criteria 3) a new Major Sign Permit, and 4) a new approvals process.

Below are links to the specific Chapters of Titles 14 and 17 of the Oakland Municipal Code as they relate to advertising signs.

OMC Amendments: Advertising Sign Combining Zone

Amendments to the Oakland Municipal Code would apply the following criteria to a new Advertising Combining Zone:

  • Public and private property
  • Commercial or industrial zoning
  • Caltrans requirements per the Outdoor Advertising Act

The following criteria would not apply to a new Advertising Sign Combining Zone:

  • Residential neighborhoods including areas zoned DCE-3 and HBX
  • Neighborhoods adjacent to a Scenic Highway, e.g. MacArthur Freeway
  • Neighborhoods adjacent to Classified Landscaped Freeways

See a map of the areas under consideration for advertising signs in the Draft Advertising Sign Combining Zone Map. To submit feedback on draft areas, please visit our Konveio webpage.

OMC Amendments: Advertising Sign Criteria

Caltrans requires the following criteria for advertising signs that are visible from interstates:

  • Located outside of the freeway right of way and up to 660 feet from its edge
  • Located outside of any stream, creek, or drainage channel
  • An existing business activity must be within 1,000 feet of a proposed billboard on either side of the freeway

The City of Oakland is considering the following as requirements in addition to Caltrans requirements and seeks feedback on the following criteria:

  • Areas directly adjacent to Interstates 80, 580, and 880 as identified in the Draft Advertising Sign Combining Zone Map.
  • Avoiding locations in designated historic districts, local landmarks, and buildings with an A or B historic rating
  • Specific locations where static Advertising Signs are appropriate
  • Specific locations where digital Advertising Signs are appropriate
Maximum Height Minimum Clearance Brightness Levels (Digital Only)

No more than 75' in height inclusive of supporting structures, measured from finished grade of the freeway travel lane closest to the sign to its uppermost point

Projecting over a freeway: Minimum 40' between the lowest point of the sign and the finished grade of the freeway

No more than 0.3 foot candles above ambient light, as measured using a foot candle meter at a pre-set distance

Projecting over pedestrian path: Minimum 20' between the lowest point of the sign and the path of travel grade

Measure Distance criteria:

  • 150' for 12'x25' face size
  • 200' for 10'6"x36' face size
  • 250' for 14'x48' face size

OMC Amendments: Major Sign Permit

Oakland is considering a new permit type for new advertising signs or existing advertising signs that request to be moved to an area within the Advertising Sign Combining Zone. The Major Sign Permit could include specific conditions of approval e.g., "that the advertising sign does not prevent the site from being redeveloped" and "that the advertising sign is of a quality and scale appropriate to the Commercial or Industrial Zone in which it is located."

Similar to a Major Conditional Use Permit, applicants would be required to obtain a Major Sign Permit specific to advertising signs and accompanied by findings which will be established as part of the amendments to Oakland Municipal Code Title 17 - Planning.

OMC Amendments: Approvals Process

The Major Sign Permit would be the regulatory mechanism by which entitlement for a billboard is first considered and recommended by the Planning Commission to the City Council for final approval. This procedure for consideration includes a requirement that a legislative Agreement be executed and approved at City Council concurrent with the Major Sign Permit under the provisions of the Oakland Municipal Code Title 14 – Signs.

A legislative Agreement would be required to be considered concurrent with all Major Sign Permits. The purpose and intent of the legislative Agreement would be to document the community purpose and benefits to be gained for the affected community. Because the legislative Agreement would be governed by the provisions of OMC Title 14, all Agreements entered into between the applicant and the City would require final approval by the City Council.

Draft Approvals Process
Draft Approvals Process

Amendments to Titles 14 and 17 would describe the process by which a project sponsor applies for a Major Sign Permit and a legislative Agreement for review and recommendation by the Planning Commission for full approval by the City Council.


The City of Oakland's Planning Code currently restricts new advertising signs on private property but is considering a new permit type and process to allow private property owners in certain areas that are zoned Industrial or Commercial to apply for a Major Sign Permit and an associated legislative Agreement.

For specific questions, please email dfindley@oaklandca.gov.