No on Recall Signs on Public Property 2024 Code Violation

Can election signs be posted on public property?

No. Political signs are generally not allowed to be placed on public property. Contact code enforcement to have the signs removed.

Election Signs on Public Property

One of the hottest topics in the 2024 recall has been alleged sign theft. However, within that topic, there has been discrete issue of placing signs on public property. This usually involves signs on street intersections, stop signs, or other public signs within the public right of way.

What are the rules for election signs on public property?

These rules vary by jurisdiction, with OUSD covering the cities of Orange, Villa Park, large portions of Anaheim, and small portions of both Santa Ana, and Garden Grove, as well as certain unincorporated areas of Orange County.

Overall, these laws are subject to the interpretations of a major Supreme Court ruling in 2015 on municipal regulation of signage in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 576 U.S. 155 (2015). Any interpretation of this case is outside the scope of this article.

Orange Election Sign Laws

Orange Municipal Code 17.36.170 entitled “Noncommercial and Campaign Sign Regulations” lays down the law for Orange, California.

Orange Municipal Code 17.36.170(B) defines “Campaign Signs” as follows: “A temporary sign advocating a person’s candidacy for an upcoming election or which state a position or otherwise provide information on a legislative measure that has qualified for the ballot on an upcoming election.”

Orange Municipal Code 17.36.170(D) explains that: “Noncommercial and campaign signs are not permitted in the public right-of-way as provided elsewhere in this chapter.

Orange Municipal Code 17.36.170(F) provides that: “Noncommercial and campaign signs may be located in the City without a permit as long as: (1) they are in conformity with this chapter’s maximum limitations on height, area, location and number of signs for each relevant sign district; (2) do not require a building permit; and (3) do not otherwise pose a health and safety risk.”

Villa Park Election Sign Laws

Villa Park Municipal Code Section 23-16.7, entitled “Temporary Signs,” provides that “Temporary signs mean a sign erected for a temporary purpose attracting attention to an activity as provided for within this chapter and includes any political sign.”

Importantly, Villa Park Municipal Code Section 23-16.7.(a)(3), entitled “Placement,” explains that:

No person shall affix a temporary sign on any traffic signal, utility pole or box, traffic control device, or public tree. Furthermore, temporary signs shall not be located within, median, public property or within a public park area. Public right-of-way within residential districts is the first seven (7) feet behind the curb line and temporary signs are allowed within this area. (exhibit 23-16.7 (a)(3)) Real estate signs shall be limited to one (1) per building site.

Villa Park Municipal Code Section 23-16.7.(a)(4), entitled Permission for Placement, provides in relevant part that: “Permission is required for placing signs within the defined public right-of-way of private properties” Below is Exhibit 23-16.7 explaining the right-of-way area.

As to such signs, Villa Park Municipal Code Section 23-16.7(a)(7) provides a “Timeline” as follows: “All temporary signs pertaining to a particular event or election day shall not be erected more than forty-five (45) calendar days prior to the event to which the sign pertains and shall be removed within five (5) calendar days after the date of the event or election day.”

Villa Park Municipal Code Section 23-16.7(a)(12) provides a “Limit per property for certain signs” as follows: “Temporary signs pertaining to a particular special event or election day must be freestanding, and shall be limited to two (2) signs per property for each event, each candidate, or each measure.”

Anaheim Election Sign Laws

Under the section entitled “PROHIBITION OF SIGNS IN PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY,” Anaheim Municipal Code provides that:

 It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, corporation, committee, or organization, except a public officer or employee in the performance of a public duty or unless required or permitted by ordinance of the City of Anaheim or the laws of the State or of the United States, to place or cause to be placed, any sign on or within any public right-of-way in the City of Anaheim, or to affix any sign to any curb, telephone wire, crossbar or pole, utility wire, crossbar or pole, lamp post, traffic or parking control signs or devices, hydrant, bridge, tree, bus shelter, or any other object located within said public right-of-way.

Anaheim Municipal Code

“Any sign violating any of the provisions of this section is hereby declared to be and is a public nuisance.” Anaheim Municipal Code

Can I remove an election sign on my property?

The bottom line is that only a property owner should remove a sign, and only if they are sure that the sign is on their private property.

Indeed, Villa Park Municipal Code 23-16.7.10 explains that: “It shall be considered ‘theft’ to remove a temporary sign by anyone other than a City official in the act of abatement due to violation of this Section. Private property owners may remove signage from their property or the defined public right-of-way maintained by the owner at any time. Those who otherwise remove a legally placed temporary sign without permission from the person or organization that placed the sign shall be in violation of criminal codes associated with theft and/or trespass.”

How can I determine if the sign is on public property?

This can be a tricky issue in certain circumstances. However, other situations are more blatant. It is important to check the Orange County ArcGIS website for clear maps of the subject property.

Why do campaigns post signs on public property?

Campaigns often want as much exposure as they can get. Unfortunately, some campaigns have few local supporters, causing them to resort to public property.

How do I report political signs on public property?

Contact code enforcement for the city, if the sign is within the boundaries of a city, or the County of Orange. Note that this issue may fall under the category of “trash” that needs to be disposed of by the government agency.

Will the city remove the sign on public property?

Yes, the cities will respond to requests to remove signs on public property. Below is a picture of such a sign removal.

What if a sign is posted in the “common area” of a homeowner’s association?

Homeowner’s associations (HOA) may have specific rules regarding the placement of campaign signs, including rules specific to an owner’s property and the time-frame in which signs can be posted.

Civil Code § 4710(a) provides that: “The governing documents may not prohibit posting or displaying of noncommercial signs, posters, flags, or banners on or in a member’s separate interest, except as required for the protection of public health or safety or if the posting or display would violate a local, state, or federal law.” The separate interest means their private property, i.e., their house.

The common area of a HOA is private property (even though it looks like public property and may even abut a public sidewalk or right of way) and the HOA may remove a sign.