Signs and signage requirements

Well-designed signs can add to the attractiveness of an area, while signage that is cluttered or overbearing detracts from the beauty of the streetscape. Signs also serve as a symbol for businesses and can help merchants build a positive business image. The intent of these guidelines is to encourage signage that helps maintain the positive image of the area enjoyed by the residents and businesses of Menlo Park. Every Menlo Park business is encouraged to post an attractive sign stating the name of the business. The sign should be at a scale appropriate to the pedestrian and vehicular streetscape and the nature of the business. 

Signage requirements and guidelines

New or modified signage is required to meet a number of standards and guidelines, such as size, materials, and colors. Please review both of the following in full prior to preparing a signage application:
As noted in these regulations, sign area is based on the frontage of the lot in question. If you do not know your lot's frontage length, please contact the Planning Division (see email and phone at top right of this page). Once you know the frontage length, the maximum sign area (or areas, for multi-frontage parcels) can be calculated precisely using the Sign Area Calculation Worksheet (Excel template file)

Sign review process

Sign applications that meet all Zoning Ordinance and Design Guidelines for Signs requirements may be reviewed and approved by staff. To start such an application, please submit:
Following Planning Division action on a sign permit, an appeal period of 10 business days starts, and the Building Division begins coordinating on any associated building permits. In most cases, the building permit can be issued shortly after the end of the appeal period. 

Sign applications that do not meet all Design Guidelines for Signs requirements require Sign Review by the Planning Commission. Sign applications that do not meet Zoning Ordinance requirements (in particular, sign area) require Variance review by the Planning Commission. Please contact the Planning Division if you are considering such an application for discretionary review. 

Common signage application issues

Please review the following list of common application mistakes/omissions, in order to ensure a timely review and action:
  • Because maximum sign area is calculated for the whole parcel, multi-tenant sites must provide the areas for all existing signs that are proposed to remain, in order for staff to confirm that the new sign complies with the total sign area limit.
  • Per Design Guidelines for Signs General Criteria B4, existing cabinet/box signs may be refaced, but otherwise use of individual letters and symbols is preferred. Please also note: if an existing cabinet/box sign is refaced, General Criteria B5 requires that the background be dark, with the letters light (versus a white/light background, which would create glare).
  • Per Design Guidelines for Signs General Criteria B7, certain bright yellow/orange/red colors are prohibited if they represent more than 25 percent of the sign area. Please provide Pantone Matching System (PMS) codes and area calculations if you have any colors in this general yellow/orange/red range.

Temporary signs

In addition to the above regulations/process for permanent signage, temporary signs may be proposed for a maximum of 30 consecutive days, and no more than 60 days each calendar year. Temporary signs do not require a submittal fee, but an application form and plans should be submitted for staff review and action prior to installation.