Code of the District of Columbia

Part B. Outdoor Signs.


§ 1–303.21. Rules.

(a) The Mayor shall issue, amend, repeal and enforce rules governing the hanging, placing, painting, projection, display, and maintenance of signs on public space, public buildings, or other property owned or controlled by the District and on private property within public view within the District. The proposed rules shall be submitted to the Council for a 45-day period of review, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, legal holidays, and days of Council recess. If the Council does not approve or disapprove the proposed rules, in whole or in part, by resolution within this 45-day review period, the proposed rules shall be deemed disapproved. The rules shall not take effect until approved by the Council.

(b) The rules shall:

(1) Determine the types of signs that shall be allowed and prohibited and establish permit requirements for signs, where appropriate;

(2) Establish standards for the location, size, and illumination of different types of signs;

(3) Allow for the display of signs that contribute to a healthy business environment and civic communication while protecting the health, safety, convenience, and welfare of the public, including protection of the appearance of outdoor space throughout the District;

(4) State the specific requirements for large signs and billboards;

(5) Establish standards for signs on historic sites or in historic areas;

(6) Provide structural requirements for signs to ensure their safety;

(7) Ensure compliance with federal highway requirements;

(8) Provide for the creation of Designated Entertainment Areas to allow for the display of additional signs; and

(9) Establish permit fees.

(10) Repealed.


(Mar. 3, 1931, 46 Stat. 1486, ch. 399, § 1; Apr. 27, 2013, D.C. Law 19-289, § 2(a), 60 DCR 2328; Mar. 11, 2015, D.C. Law 20-207, § 4(a), 61 DCR 12690.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-325.

1973 Ed., § 1-231.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 1-303.23.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-289 rewrote the section.

The 2015 amendment by D.C. Law 20-207 repealed (b)(10) and made related stylistic changes.

Cross References

Real estate, sale or rent signs, see 42-1801.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(a) of the Sign Regulation Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Act 19-387, July 11, 2012, 59 DCR 8491).

For temporary (90 day) addition, see § 2(b) of the Sign Regulation Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Act 19-387, July 11, 2012, 59 DCR 8491).

For temporary amendment of section, see § 2(a) of the Sign Regulation Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Act 19-499, October 26, 2012, 59 DCR 12749), applicable as of October 9, 2012, and with the condition that any order, rule, or regulation in effect under a law replaced by this act shall remain in effect until repealed, amended, or superseded.

For temporary addition of the Act of March 3, 1931, Ch. 399, § 1a, concerning adjudication of infractions, see § 2(b) of the Sign Regulation Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Act 19-497, October 26, 2012, 59 DCR 12749), applicable as of October 9, 2012, and with the condition that any order, rule, or regulation in effect under a law replaced by this act shall remain in effect until repealed, amended, or superseded.

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(a) of D.C. Law 19-181 amended § 1-303.21 to read as follows:

“(a) The Mayor shall issue, amend, repeal and enforce rules governing the hanging, placing, painting, display, and maintenance of signs on public space owned or controlled by the District and on private property within public view within the District. The proposed rules shall be submitted to the Council for a 45-day period of review, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, legal holidays, and days of Council recess. If the Council does not approve or disapprove the proposed rules, in whole or in part, by resolution within this 45-day review period, the proposed rules shall be deemed approved.

“(b) The rules shall, at a minimum:

“(1) Determine the types of signs that shall be allowed and prohibited and establish permit requirements for signs where appropriate;

“(2) Establish standards for the location, size, and illumination of different types of signs;

“(3) Allow for the display of signs that contribute to a healthy business environment and civic communication while protecting the health, safety, convenience, and welfare of the public, including protection of the appearance of outdoor space throughout the District;

“(4) State the specific requirements for large signs and billboards;

“(5) Establish standards for signs on historic sites or in historic areas;

“(6) Provide structural requirements for signs to ensure their safety;

“(7) Ensure compliance with federal highway requirements;

“(8) Provide for the creation of Designated Entertainment Areas to allow for the display of additional signs; and

“(9) Establish permit fees and fines and other penalties for violations of the sign rules.”

Section 2(b) of D.C. Law 19-181 added the Act of Mar. 3, 1931, ch. 399, § 1a, to read as follows:

“Sec. 1a. Adjudication of infractions of the rules issued pursuant to section 1 shall be pursuant to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs Civil Infractions Act of 1985, effective July 16, 1985 (D.C. Law 6-42; D.C. Official Code § 8-801.01 et seq.) (“Civil Infractions Act”), and the Litter Control Administration Act of 1985, effective March 25, 1986 (D.C. Law 6-100; D.C. Official Code § 8-801 et seq.) (“Litter Control Act”), as applicable. The Mayor may, through rulemaking, establish a schedule of fines and penalties for infractions of these rules that are separate from the fines and penalties imposed under the Civil Infractions Act and the Litter Control Act. These rules shall be subject to Council review and approval as described in section 1.”

Section 8 of D.C. Law 19-181 provided that any order, rule, or regulation in effect under a law replaced by the act shall remain in effect until repealed, amended, or superseded.

Section 9 of D.C. Law 19-181 provided that sections 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the act shall apply upon the Mayor’s issuance of a comprehensive final rulemaking governing signs on public space and private property pursuant to section 2 of the act.

Section 11(b) of D.C. Law 19-181 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.

Editor's Notes

Section 9 of D.C. Law 19-289 provided that any order, rule, or regulation in effect under a law replaced by this act shall remain in effect until repealed, amended, or superseded.

Applicability of D.C. Law 20-207: Section 12(a) of D.C. Law 20-207 provided that §§ 2(a), 2(b)(1), 2(b)(2)(A), 2(b)(2)(B), 2(b)(2)(C), 2(c), 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 shall apply as of March 11, 2015.

Change in Government

This section originated at a time when local government powers were delegated to a Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia (see Acts Relating to the Establishment of the District of Columbia and its Various Forms of Governmental Organization in Volume 1). Section 402(8) of Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1967 (see Reorganization Plans in Volume 1) transferred all of the functions of the Board of Commissioners under this section to the District of Columbia Council, subject to the right of the Commissioner as provided in § 406 of the Plan. The District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act, 87 Stat. 818, § 711 ( D.C. Code, § 1-207.11), abolished the District of Columbia Council and the Office of Commissioner of the District of Columbia. These branches of government were replaced by the Council of the District of Columbia and the Office of Mayor of the District of Columbia, respectively. Accordingly, and also pursuant to § 714(a) of such Act ( D.C. Code, § 1-207.14(a)), appropriate changes in terminology were made in this section.


§ 1–303.22. License required; fee. [Repealed]

Repealed.


(Mar. 3, 1931, 46 Stat. 1486, ch. 399, § 2; Sept. 14, 1976, D.C. Law 1-82, title I, § 102, 23 DCR 2461; Oct. 5, 1985, D.C. Law 6-42, § 421, 32 DCR 4450; Sept. 26, 1995, D.C. Law 11-52, § 301, 42 DCR 3684; Apr. 20, 1999, D.C. Law 12-261, § 2003(a), 46 DCR 3142; Oct. 28, 2003, D.C. Law 15-38, § 3(a), 50 DCR 6913; Apr. 27, 2013, D.C. Law 19-289, § 2(b), 60 DCR 2328.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-326.

1973 Ed., § 1-232.

Section References

This section is referenced in § 9-1159 and § 50-921.04.

Effect of Amendments

D.C. Law 15-38, in subsec. (b), substituted “General Services and Repair endorsement to a basic business license under the basic” for “Class B General Services and Repair endorsement to a master business license under the master”.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 3(a) of Streamlining Regulation Emergency Act of 2003 (D.C. Act 15-145, August 11, 2003, 50 DCR 6896).

For temporary (90 day) repeal of section, see § 2(c) of the Sign Regulation Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Act 19-387, July 11, 2012, 59 DCR 8491).

For temporary repeal of section, see § 2(c) of the Sign Regulation Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Act 19-499, October 26, 2012, 59 DCR 12749), applicable as of October 9, 2012, and with the condition that any order, rule, or regulation in effect under a law replaced by this act shall remain in effect until repealed, amended, or superseded.

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(c) of D.C. Law 19-181 repealed this section.

Section 8 of D.C. Law 19-181 provided that any order, rule, or regulation in effect under a law replaced by this act shall remain in effect until repealed, amended, or superseded.

Section 9 of D.C. Law 19-181 provided that sections 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the act shall apply upon the Mayor’s issuance of a comprehensive final rulemaking governing signs on public space and private property pursuant to section 2 of the act.

Section 11(b) of D.C. Law 19-181 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.

Editor's Notes

Office of Collector of Taxes abolished: The Office of the Collector of Taxes was abolished and the functions thereof transferred to the Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia by Reorganization Plan No. 5 of 1952. All functions of the Office of the Collector of Taxes including the functions of all officers, employees and subordinate agencies were transferred to the Director, Department of General Administration by Reorganization Order No. 3, dated August 28, 1952. Reorganization Order No. 20, dated November 10, 1952, transferred the functions of the Collector of Taxes to the Finance Office. The same Order provided for the Office of the Collector of Taxes headed by a Collector in the Finance Office, and abolished the previously existing Office of the Collector of Taxes. Reorganization Order No. 20 was superseded and replaced by Organization Order No. 121, dated December 12, 1957, which provided that the Finance Office (consisting of the Office of the Finance Officer, Property Tax Division, Revenue Division, Treasury Division, Accounting Division, and Data Processing Division) would continue under the direction and control of the Director of General Administration, and that the Treasury Division would perform the function of collecting revenues of the District of Columbia and depositing the same with the Treasurer of the United States. Organization Order No. 121 was revoked by Organization Order No. 3 dated December 13, 1967, Part IVC of which prescribed the functions of the Finance Office within a newly established Department of General Administration. The executive functions of the Board of Commissioners were transferred to the Commissioner of the District of Columbia by § 401 of Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1967. Functions of the Finance Office as stated in Part IVC of Organization Order No. 3 were transferred to the Director of the Department of Finance and Revenue by Commissioner’s Order No. 69-96, dated March 7, 1969. The collection functions of the Director of the Department of Finance and Revenue was transferred to the District of Columbia Treasurer by § 47-316 on March 5, 1981.

Transfer of function: Commissioner’s Order No. 69-96, dated March 7, 1969, transferred to the Director of the Department of Economic Development the function of business and professional licensing. The Department of Economic Development was replaced by the Department of Licenses, Investigation and Inspections by Mayor’s Order 78-42, dated February 17, 1978. The functions of the Department of Licenses, Investigations, and Inspections were transferred to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs by Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1983, effective March 31, 1983.

Section 9 of D.C. Law 19-289 provided that any order, rule, or regulation in effect under a law replaced by this act shall remain in effect until repealed, amended, or superseded.

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-289: Section 10 of D.C. Law 19-289 provided that sections 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 of the act shall not apply until the Mayor’s issuance of a comprehensive final rulemaking governing signs on public space and private property pursuant to section 2 of the act. Section 2 of D.C. Law 19-289 rewrote §§ 1-303.21 and 1-303.23, and repealed § 1-303.22.

Change in Government

This section originated at a time when local government powers were delegated to a Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia (see Acts Relating to the Establishment of the District of Columbia and its Various Forms of Governmental Organization in Volume 1). Section 401 of Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1967 (see Reorganization Plans in Volume 1) transferred all of the functions of the Board of Commissioners under this section to a single Commissioner. The District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act, 87 Stat. 818, § 711 ( D.C. Code, § 1-207.11), abolished the District of Columbia Council and the Office of Commissioner of the District of Columbia. These branches of government were replaced by the Council of the District of Columbia and the Office of Mayor of the District of Columbia, respectively. Accordingly, and also pursuant to § 714(a) of such Act ( D.C. Code, § 1-207.14(a)), appropriate changes in terminology were made in this section.


§ 1–303.23. Penalties and enforcement.

(a) Enforcement and adjudication of infractions of these rules shall be pursuant to Chapter 18 of Title 2 [§ 2-1801.01 et seq.] (“Civil Infractions Act”), Chapter 9A of Title 50 [§ 50-921.01 et seq.] (“DDOT Establishment Act”), and Chapter 1A of Title 12A of the Construction Codes. The Mayor shall enforce the rules applicable to signs on public space, public rights-of-way, public buildings and structures, and other property owned or controlled by the District under the Civil Infractions Act and the DDOT Establishment Act. The rules applicable to signs on private property shall be enforced under the Civil Infractions Act and Chapter 1A of Title 12A of the Construction Codes. The Mayor shall also establish, by rulemaking, a schedule of fines and penalties for infractions of these rules, which shall be subject to Council review and approval as described in § 1-303.21.

(b) A person or entity, whether as principal, agent, or employee, violating rules issued pursuant to § 1-303.21 or this section shall, upon conviction in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, be fined no less than $5 nor more than $200 for each offense, and a fine shall be imposed for each day that the violation continues.


(Mar. 3, 1931, 46 Stat. 1486, ch. 399, § 4; Apr. 1, 1942, 56 Stat. 190, ch. 207, § 1; July 8, 1963, 77 Stat. 77, Pub. L. 88-60, § 1; July 29, 1970, 84 Stat. 570, Pub. L. 91-358, title I, § 155(a); Oct. 5, 1985, D.C. Law 6-42, § 457, 32 DCR 4450; Apr. 27, 2013, D.C. Law 19-289, § 2(c), 60 DCR 2328; Mar. 11, 2015, D.C. Law 20-207, § 4(b), 61 DCR 12690.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 1-327.

1973 Ed., § 1-233.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-289 rewrote the section.

The 2015 amendment by D.C. Law 20-207 rewrote (a).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 day) amendment of section, see § 2(d) of the Sign Regulation Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Act 19-387, July 11, 2012, 59 DCR 8491).

For temporary amendment of section, see § 2(d) of the Sign Regulation Congressional Review Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 (D.C. Act 19-497, October 26, 2012, 59 DCR 12749), applicable after the Mayor’s issuance of a comprehensive final rulemaking governing signs on public space and private property, and with the condition that any order, rule, or regulation in effect under a law replaced by this act shall remain in effect until repealed, amended, or superseded.

Temporary Legislation

Section 2(d) of D.C. Law 19-181 amended § 1-303.23 to read as follows:

“(a) In addition to the remedies applicable under section 1a, the Mayor may summarily abate a violation of rules issued under section 1 if the violation presents a hazard to the public. In these circumstances, the permit holder and the owner of the property where the sign is displayed shall be entitled to an expedited hearing within 72 hours after the abatement.

“(b) Unauthorized signs and signs that are otherwise out of compliance with rules issued under section 1 shall be removed within 10 days after the permit holder, or the owner or occupant of the premises where the sign is displayed, receives a written notice of violation from the Mayor. The owner and occupant of the premises where the sign is displayed and the permit holder shall be responsible for removing the sign and may be held responsible for any penalties imposed for the violation. If the owner, occupant, or permit holder fails to remove the sign within the 10-day period and fails to request a hearing, the Mayor may remove the sign and the owner, occupant, and permit holder shall be responsible for the costs of the removal.”

Section 8 of D.C. Law 19-181 provided that any order, rule, or regulation in effect under a law replaced by this act shall remain in effect until repealed, amended, or superseded.

Section 9 of D.C. Law 19-181 provided that sections 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the act shall apply upon the Mayor’s issuance of a comprehensive final rulemaking governing signs on public space and private property pursuant to section 2 of the act.

Section 11(b) of D.C. Law 19-181 provided that the act shall expire after 225 days of its having taken effect.

Editor's Notes

Section 9 of D.C. Law 19-289 provided that any order, rule, or regulation in effect under a law replaced by this act shall remain in effect until repealed, amended, or superseded.

Applicability of D.C. Law 20-207: Section 12(a) of D.C. Law 20-207 provided that §§ 2(a), 2(b)(1), 2(b)(2)(A), 2(b)(2)(B), 2(b)(2)(C), 2(c), 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 shall apply as of March 11, 2015.