The District of Columbia imposed a permanent moratorium on the issuance of any permits for the erection or construction of a "Special Sign." Only 32 Special Signs are legally allowed to exist in the District. Under D.C. law, a Special Sign is not a billboard (see below for information on billboards). The Special Signs can be moved from location to location within limited boundaries as defined the Special Signs Amendment Act below.
Link to Special Signs Amendment Act of 2001
Special Sign Inventory: Addresses and photos of the currently approved 32 special signs
(see also map below).
The DC Construction Codes, specifically Title 12A, Section 3107, govern the construction and permitting of all outdoor signs.
Under Section 3188.8.131.52, only those billboards in existence as of December 31, 1971 are authorized to remain in place, so long as they aren’t located on lots within 200 feet of a residential district, as defined by Zoning Regulations. No changes in size or location are allowed for authorized billboards. If a billboard were to be demolished, unlike Special Signs, it could not be rebuilt or relocated to another site.
DCRA has been trying to piece together the history behind this moratorium. From what we’ve been able to gather, billboards were first constructed in the District in early 1931. Their appearance caused an outcry by residents concerned that billboards were a blight on the city’s aesthetics. By the end of 1931, the District’s government had banned the construction of any new billboards in the city. The only billboards that could remain were those contained on the “Authorized List of Billboards, Three-sheet Poster Boards, and Wall Signs,” dated November 30, 1931, which appears to have been updated once a decade, with the last update being in 1971.
DCRA is currently creating an inventory of all legally authorized outdoor signs in the District. Once we have created an accurate inventory, we will be sending out inspectors to investigate any signs that are posted, but for which we do not have any permitting information on file. For those signs deemed to be illegal, we will issue notices to the owners of the property and the sign requiring the sign’s removal.
Reporting Illegal Signs
If you have questions about any other type of sign, such as billboards, building signs or construction signs, call the Permit Center at (202) 442-4589.
If you suspect a billboard or other outdoor advertising sign is unauthorized, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and include the location, a photograph of the sign, and any details on the sign that indicate the sign's owner. If you use Twitter, you can also send us pictures via tweets.
Code Compliance, Signage
Service at a Glance
Provided By: DCRA
Location: 1100 4th Street SW Washington, DC 20024
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1971 Authorized List of Billboards
1931 Authorized Billboard List
Special Signs Amendment Act of 2001
Special Sign Application
DCMR Title 12a Section 3107
Map of Special Sign Locations
Emergency Regulations Amending Sign Permit Requirements - May 10, 2011
- Emergency Regulations Amending Sign Permit Requirements - May 10, 2011
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