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Political Signs

Outdoor Political Advertising – State Law

Section 5405.3 of the State Outdoor Advertising Act (Business & Professions Code) authorizes the placing of "temporary political signs" separate and apart from the normal outdoor advertising controls.  No political sign may be placed within the right‑of‑way of any highway or within 660 feet of the edge of and visible from the right‑of‑way of a landscaped freeway.

Temporary political signs are those that meet the following criteria:

  • Encourages a particular vote in a scheduled election;
  • Is placed not sooner than 90 days prior to the scheduled election and is removed within 10 days after the election;
  • Is no larger than 32 square feet;
  • Has had a "Statement of Responsibility" filed with the State Department of Transportation, Division of Traffic Operations, Outdoor Advertising Program, P.O. Box 94287, MS-36, Sacramento, 94274-0001, certifying a person who will be responsible for removing the signs and who will reimburse the department for any cost incurred to remove it.  Forms are available at the Santa Cruz County Elections Department.  Call 916-654-5327 for more information.

The law directs the Department of Transportation to remove signs that do not comply with the regulations before an election and to bill the responsible party for removal costs after the election.

Penal Code Sections 556, 556.1 and 556.3 provide that it is a misdemeanor for any person to place a sign to advertise on public or private property (without consent); and that it shall be considered a public nuisance.

Pursuant to a County Counsel opinion dated April 18, 1994, utility poles are the property of the private utility company and the posting of political signs on them may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.  Furthermore, the Public Utility Commission may impose a fine for such unauthorized posting.

Outdoor Political Advertising -- Santa Cruz County Code

Santa Cruz County Code, Section 13.10.583 states that temporary or political signs shall not be placed so as to constitute a traffic hazard. On January 12, 1993, the Board of Supervisors approved the following Public Works criteria for removal of signs as they might affect roadside safety:

Signs may be removed by authorized Public Works staff if they:

  1. Block the sight distance on county roads at intersections of county roads, private roads or driveways.
  2. Restrict the use of the highway or otherwise clearly cause problems for the traveling public.
  3. Obscure fire hydrants, traffic signs, traffic signals or other traffic control devices.
  4. Are attached to or distract the attention of drivers from any traffic control device.
  5. Interfere with normal maintenance efforts.
  6. Are identified as other traffic hazards by the Director of Public Works consistent with the content of this policy.

Action to remove signs under categories 1 through 4 above, generally requires immediate attention. For those matters covered under categories 5 and 6, Public Works staff will make reasonable effort to contact the responsible party, to relocate or remove the signs within 24 hours.

Pursuant to Section 1480.5 of the Streets and Highways Code, the Director of Public Works may immediately remove an encroachment that constitutes a traffic hazard or an encroachment that is an advertising sign or device of any description. In keeping with the provisions of Section 1480.5(d) any such sign removed by the Public Works Department that is of more than nominal value shall be held at a County maintenance yard for a reasonable period of time to allow the owner of the sign to retrieve it. The return of the sign may be conditioned upon payment of an amount sufficient to reimburse the Public Works Department for the expense of removal.

Outdoor Political Advertising ‑ City Ordinances

Each city in Santa Cruz County has rules and regulations regarding outdoor political advertising.  Contact the city clerk in Santa Cruz (831-420-5030), Capitola (831-475‑7300), Scotts Valley (831-440-5602) or Watsonville (831-768‑3040) for more information.

Removal of Political Signs

If the political signs are not removed within 10 days after the election, an enforcement action could be pursued in accordance with the enforcement provisions of Chapter 13.10 of the Santa Cruz County Code (County Counsel opinion dated April 18, 1994).