City of San Mateo Law Library
City of San Mateo Municipal Code.

25.02.030 DEFINITIONS.

(a) Awning Sign. A sign attached to, painted upon, appearing upon, incorporated in, or supported by an awning or hood.

(b) Banner. A sign, including pennants and flags, which uses cloth, paper, plastic or other non-rigid material as the sign surface.

(c) Business. Professions, trades, occupations, and all and every kind of calling (including nonprofit organizations) carried on for profit, livelihood, or fund-raising.

(d) Construction Sign. A sign displayed on the site of a construction development project, during the time of actual construction.

(e) Electric Face Sign. A sign containing an electrical system, but not including signs illuminated by an exterior light source.

(f) Exterior Light Source. A light source which illuminates a sign but is not a component of the sign itself.

(g) Face Sign. A sign painted on a wall or structure, or constructed as an integral unit or as individual words, letters, or figures, and located approximately parallel with (not more than 18 inches away from) the face of a building or structure.

(h) Flashing Sign. An illuminated sign on which the electrical light is not maintained stationary or constant in intensity and color at all times.

(i) Freestanding Sign. A sign which is self-supporting in a fixed location and not attached to or projecting over any building.

(j) High Rise Building. Any building which is more than fifty feet in height as measured from average grade.

(k) Illuminated Sign. A sign which has characters, letters, figures, designs, or outline illuminated by electric lights or luminous tubes on, within, or attached to the sign, or by an unattached light source.

(l) Internally Illuminated Sign. The illumination of a sign by a light source that is fully incorporated into the sign itself.

(m) Internal Reverse Illumination. The illumination of individual letters, numbers or graphics by the use of internal, reverse illumination, where the light source is not directly visible.

(n) Logo. A graphic representation or symbol of a company name, trademark, or abbreviation of the name of the business occupying the building or property.

(o) Marquee Sign. A sign attached to or supported by a marquee. A marquee means a permanent roofed structure attached to and supported by a building.

(p) Mural. A large picture painted or affixed directly on a wall or ceiling. A mural is not considered a sign as defined by this Title.

(q) Non-Conforming Sign. A sign which does not conform to each and every applicable provision of this Title but was:

(1) Lawfully in existence and complied with all Municipal Code and other laws at the time of its erection and in use in the City prior to and at the time the provisions of this Title with which it does not conform became effective; or

(2) Lawfully in existence and in use on property outside the City at the time of annexation of such property to the City.

(r) Nonresidential Use. A church; community service building, including but not limited to, libraries, parks, playgrounds and community centers; public and private educational facilities; day care centers when located in a public or quasi-public structure such as a school, recreation center, church, temple or similar facility; philanthropic uses; and public utility facilities. Except as to uses specifically included in this section, nonresidential use does not include commercial uses.

(s) Off-Site Advertising Sign. A sign which directs attention to activity including a business, commodity, real property, service, or attraction or entertainment conducted, sold, or offered elsewhere than upon the premises where the sign is located.

(t) Permanent Sign. A sign located on a structure for more than 90 days.

(u) Portable Sign. A portable sign capable of standing without support or attachment.

(v) Private Property. Property other than Public Property or Public Right-of-Way.

(w) Projecting Sign. A sign which projects more than eighteen inches from the building face, and is supported by a wall, so that the sign face is perpendicular to the building face or wall, but does not exceed the height of the roof or parapet.

(x) Public Property. Property owned by the City, but excluding Public Right of Way.

(y) Public Right-of-Way. That area or those areas dedicated to public use for public street purposes including, but not limited to, roadways, parkways, alleys, and sidewalks.

(z) Roof Sign. A sign which exceeds the height of the top of the building parapet, plate line of a pitched roof or top of a mansard roof, or projects more than 18 inches from a mansard roof.

(aa) Shopping Center. A cluster of retail and general commercial uses which share common parking facilities.

(1) Community shopping center. "Community shopping center" means a shopping center between 20,000 and 100,000 square feet of gross floor area, capable of supporting two or more retail or commercial businesses.

(2) Regional shopping center. "Regional shopping center" means a shopping center generally totaling more than 100,000 square feet of gross floor area, including one or more anchor department stores.

(bb) Sign. Any structure, display, device, balloon or graphic placed on any land, building or structure, which is used to communicate any message, or which advertises or promotes any business, product, activity, person or interest. Signs include, but are not limited to, any writing, pictorial representation, logo, symbol, banner, or any other figure of similar character of whatever material which is used to identify, announce, direct attention to, advertise or communicate, which is not inside a building. The term "placed" shall include constructing, erecting, posting, painting, printing, tacking, nailing, gluing, sticking, carving, stringing, or otherwise fastening, affixing, or making visible in any manner whatsoever. Notwithstanding the general scope of the foregoing, the following shall not be deemed to be signs for the purposes of this Title:

(1) Automatic Teller Machines;

(2) Architectural features that do not perform a communicative function;

(3) Foundation and cornerstones;

(4) Grave markers;

(5) Inflatable gymnasium devices;

(6) Newsracks;

(7) License plates, license plate frames, and messages painted on street legal and operable vehicles; or

(8) Vending machines and product dispensing devices which do not display commercial messages unrelated to the goods or services provided by the machine or device.

(cc) Sign Area. The area in square feet within the smallest rectangle enclosing the total exterior surface of a sign or one face of a "double faced sign". Sign area for a multi-faced sign that has an angle between sides of the sign that exceeds 30 degrees shall be counted for all sides. Where the lettered or illustrated material of a sign consists of individual letters or if the message surface consists of noncontiguous segments or has an irregularly shaped perimeter, then the area of the sign shall be all of the area encompassed within a single continuous rectilinear-perimeter of not more than six straight lines, including any color, material or graphic which is integrated therein which differentiates the message from the background.

4 examples of signs by example

(dd) Street Frontage. The side of a building abutting a street or parking lot on the same zoning plot, and that is measured by calculating either the width of the building or the width of the parcel, whichever is greater.

(1) Primary Street Frontage. The street upon which a business's main entrance is located or upon which its address is located. In the case of multiple businesses on a zoning plot, there can only be one primary street frontage.

(2) Secondary Street Frontage. A street frontage other than the primary street frontage.

(ee) Temporary Sign. A sign to be displayed only for a limited time as specified by this Chapter. A temporary sign includes a temporary banner.

(ff) Window Sign. A sign on the window or in the interior of a building within no less than 1 foot of a window.

(gg) Zoning Plot. A plot of land consisting of one or more lots or parcels on which an improvement has been, or can be, authorized by this Title. A division of airspace for condominiums or stock for a cooperative shall not establish individual zoning plots for each divided space.