Signs of Change

Houston’s roadside signs are about to get smaller and less intrusive. The city is poised to enact a new ordinance that will limit the size and type of signs businesses can display along streets. Laurie Johnson explains.

The signs that are already out there won’t change. The city’s proposed ordinance only applies to new signage. Houston Deputy Planning Director Andy Icken says a task force worked for a year to develop the new signage standards.

“We do want people to get to merchants, we do want people to know how to get there and what’s advertized. But frankly what we heard from many people that we had going on in Houston an arms race of various types of size of signage or kinds of signage. By modulating that and requiring a single standard over time, as we have done with billboards in this city, we do believe that this is in everybody’s interest to make happen.”

The proposal would reduce the square footage and height of new signs by as much as 25 percent along freeways. It also creates a new category of neighborhood signs.

“It’s really local streets. And that involves about 70 percent of the streets in the city of Houston. It’s what people think of as their neighborhood. It doesn’t include freeways or thoroughfares or, in the city’s terminology, connector streets. But it is a large percentage of the over 6,000 miles of streets we have in the city of Houston.”

Neighborhood signs will be smaller than any other signs in the ordinance. The new rule will also restrict businesses to just one electronic or so called changeable message sign on the premises. Councilmembers will vote on the ordinance on Wednesday.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.



Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson


Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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