For Merchants and Business Owners

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The City of Palm Springs and our commercial sector can only succeed by supporting each other. While each merchant and business owner works hard to achieve his or her own goals, the planning department helps all commercial business and property owners contribute to the overall look and feel of the community. The information below addresses some of the most common concerns people have about their businesses as they relate to City Planning. We invite your questions, clarifications and suggestions.  Topics covered:

  • Getting Started 
  • Signs & Banners
  • Building Alterations & Expansions
  • The Central Business District
  • Historic Preservation
  • Code Enforcement
  • Vacant Buildings

Getting Started – If you are opening or relocating a business in Palm Springs, the first planning question is whether or not you are in the correct zone. All properties are assigned a zone, and many commercial zones exist in the City. Each commercial zone has a list of permitted uses (such as bookstore, pharmacy, general office). Some uses are allowed but only after a special permit is granted by the City: 

Application for Land Use Permit 
Application for Conditional Use Permit

An easy way to find out about your zone is to call the Planning Department (760-323-8245) with the address of your new location and a complete description of the nature of your business. The planner can quickly identify most uses and give you the information you need to go forward. Hopefully, you’ve found a building that suits your needs in a compatible zone so you can quickly obtain your Business License and perhaps a new sign (see below).

If you like, you can check the rules yourself by reviewing the City’s zoning map and zoning ordinance for your particular zone and its regulations: 

 City Zoning Map
 City Zoning Ordinance

Signs & Banners – Most businesses need signage to let people know who and where they are. The City regulates all signs for their size, type and location; we recommend that you contact us early in the process of designing your sign. If your sign complies with all requirements, it is likely to be approved over-the-counter. Sign Application


   Sign Ordinance Online
  93.20.00 Signs.
  93.20.01 Short title.
  93.20.02 Purpose.
  93.20.03 Definitions.
  93.20.04 Prohibited signs.
  93.20.05 Permitted signs—Commercial and industrial business.
  93.20.06 Permitted signs—Apartments, hotels, resort hotels and residential mobilehome parks.
  93.20.07 Permitted signs—Real estate.
  93.20.08 Permitted signs—Temporary.
  93.20.09 Permitted signs—Downtown/uptown.
  93.20.10 General provisions.
  93.20.11 Abatement.

The many ways that people like to use signs results in a complex City sign ordinance.  Again, we invite you to bring your questions to the planning counter, whether you’ve investigated the sign ordinance on your own or just have a general idea of what you’d like to do.

If you are going into a multi-tenant center, you’ll find that many shopping centers have “sign programs”. These are master plans for signage, approved by the City in advance, which will guide you on the size, location and look of the center’s tenant signs. Check with your landlord or leasing agent about sign programs. City planning staff can also assist you with the rules of your landlord’s sign program.

Banners and other temporary signs have limited use in the City. Banners may only be used at a Grand Opening and for no more than 30 days. A sign application is required. There are other temporary or portable signs that you may be allowed – depending on location – including portable “open” signs, and changeable copy signs. Again, these types of signs have very limited application. Give us a call if you’d like more information on these or other atypical signs.

Building Alterations & Expansions – Any time the exterior of a commercial building is altered on the outside or whenever a building is enlarged, the City requires Architecture Review. Architecture Review is an approval of a project’s overall exterior design, and often includes a stop at the City’s Architectural Advisory Committee (AAC). To make an application, plans must be prepared by an architect, including “elevations” which show the exterior walls in all details. Other plans are also needed, including landscaping, lighting, colors & materials, and perhaps signage. These are submitted with your application. A Minor Architectural Approval is required for exterior alterations that do not add square footage to the building: 

Application for Minor Architectural Approval


A Major Architectural Approval is required for expanded or new buildings. These projects are required to be approved by the Planning Commission, after they are reviewed by the AAC:

 Application for Major Architectural Approval

The Central Business District –
Palm Springs’ most interesting and vibrant neighborhoods are its Downtown and Uptown Districts. Historically, the heart of Palm Springs’ public life, Palm Canyon Drive and Indian Canyon Drive host an eclectic mix of unique shops, services and restaurants. The City supports these districts with street light banners, holiday lighting, extra street and sidewalk maintenance and other services.

The City works with merchants to identify new programs that will assure that Downtown and Uptown Palm Springs remain one of Southern California’s favorite shopping and tourist destinations. You can reach the City’s business support staff through the Community and Economic Development or contact the merchants’ associations at Main Street and the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce.

Special sign rules apply to the Downtown and Uptown Districts, and there are also special provisions regarding parking. If you are considering locating in Downtown or Uptown Palm Springs: We welcome you! We invite you to meet with the planning staff to see what programs we have that can help you succeed.

Historic Preservation – The City of Palm Springs values its past, which includes important examples of architecture from the last one hundred years.  When a building is classified for protection, any exterior change is reviewed by the Historic Site Preservation Board (HSPB). Check with the Planning Department for information about the status of your building, or you can find additional information about historic preservation at the website, Historic Resources.

 Regulations for Historic Resources

Code Enforcement – Maintaining the quality of our commercial neighborhoods is a high priority in the City. If you believe a neighbor has neglected their property such that it is a nuisance to the public, the City’s Property Maintenance Ordinance provides a means for bringing properties into a reasonable and safe condition. 

 Regulations for Property Maintenance


The City has an active, on-going code enforcement department which is dedicated to the fair enforcement of the City’s rules. You can find additional information – including an anonymous investigation request form – at the website, Code Enforcement.

Vacant Buildings – As with any commercial area, some buildings are vacant for a time between occupancies. In order that these buildings do not adversely affect surrounding businesses, the City has adopted rules for property owners who own vacant buildings:

Regulations for Vacant Buildings


These rules assure that vacant building remain in good appearance while they are not occupied. Some owners have even worked to enhance their vacant buildings with window posters of historic scenes from Palm Springs’ past as a way to keep the interest of pedestrians while they pass by. If you have any questions about a vacant building, please contact Code Enforcement at 760-778-8434.

Any questions? Please feel free to visit us at the office, call 760-323-8245 or email any of our staff members for further assistance.

 Back to Planning Department Home Page


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