Street Graphics and the Law: Fourth Edition

PAS Report 580

By Daniel Mandelker, John Baker, Richard Crawford

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Signs do more than guide people; they help create safe and vibrant places.

Street Graphics and the Law, Fourth Edition, points the way to a better system of designing, displaying, and regulating signs. Completely updated, the fourth edition of this influential text has the latest on the evolution of digital signs and the last word on legal points every planner should know.

Introductory chapters cover the elements of street graphics systems and five criteria for successful signs. Readers also will find best practices from the United States Sign Council and a new model street graphics ordinance, along with a primer for protecting sign regulations from attacks.

Every community, from crossroads to major metro area, needs effective, aesthetic street graphics that tell people where to find what they want and send them safely on their way. This must-read report shows planners how to steer their street graphics programs in the right direction.


Executive Summary

About the Authors

Daniel R. Mandelker, one of the nation's leading scholars and teachers in land-use law, is a professor at the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis. His publications include Planned Unit Developments from APA's Planning Advisory Service as well as three past editions of Street Graphics and the Law.

John M. Baker is a founding attorney of the Minneapolis law firm Greene Espel, known for his work in constitutional law and land-use litigation. He teaches land-use courses at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Richard Crawford is a legislative consultant with the United States Sign Council, an educational resource for the sign industry based in Bristol, Pennsylvania. He also serves as president of Mercer Sign Consultants in Greater Philadelphia.

Product Details

Page Count
Date Published
Sept. 1, 2015
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Chapter 1. An Introduction to Street Graphics
The Purpose of Street Graphics
What the Street Graphics System Does
Other Features of the Streetscape
To Sum Up

Chapter 2. The Street Graphics Concept
Key Street Graphics Issues
The Settings for Street Graphics
The Five Criteria of Good Street Graphics
Developing a Street Graphics System

Chapter 3. The Street Graphics System and Its Principles
Elements of the System
The Five Principles of the Street Graphics System
Compatibility with Adjacent Residential Areas

Chapter 4. United States Sign Council Best Practice Standards for Commercial On-Premise Signs
Overview: Seeing and Reading Roadside On-Premise Signs
Determining Sign Size Using Driver Reaction Time
Factors Affecting the Way Drivers See, Understand, and Respond to Signs During Movement
Sign Factors Affecting a Driver's Perception of a Sign
Putting It All Together: Calculating Sign Area
Sign Height: Minimum Standards for Vehicle-Oriented Environments
Parallel Signs
Sign Illumination

Chapter 5. Street Graphic Types
Street Graphic Types
Special Street Graphics

Chapter 6. Street Graphic Types: Digital Signs
Safety and Driver Behavior Issues

Chapter 7. How Street Graphics Are Displayed
Illumination, Movement, and Color
Items of Information

Chapter 8. Street Graphics Model Ordinance
Street Graphics Model Ordinance Table of Contents

Chapter 9. Regulating Street Graphics: The Legal Issues
Sign Regulation as a Constitutional Problem
Aesthetics as a Basis for Sign Regulation
The Constitutionality of Sign Regulation as Applied
The Traffic Safety Justification
On-Premise Sign Regulations
Design Review
A Summary of Legal Issues

Chapter 10. A Strategy for Dealing with Nonconforming Street Graphics
The Nonconforming Use Doctrine in a Nutshell
Applying the Nonconforming Use Doctrine to Signs: Recurring Issues
Regulating Nonconforming Uses
The Amortization Option
The Compensation Requirement under the Federal Highway Beautification Act
Alternate Methods for Removing Nonconforming Signs
Nonconforming Signs: A Summary

Chapter 11. Street Graphics and Free Speech Issues
The Free Speech Problem
The Supreme Court's Free Speech Law Doctrines
Questions to Ask When Drafting a Street Graphics Ordinance That Can Meet Free Speech Law Requirements

Appendix A. United States Sign Council Best Practice Standards—Additional Resources