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Ask a Cop: Illegally Posted Traffic Signs

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Whether you have a question about certain laws and how they might affect you, your family or friends or how to stay safe in certain situations, we want you to ask them. Every week we will run one question and answer. To submit a question, email Shannon.burkey@patch.com.

Question:

What are the laws regarding unofficial traffic-directing signs placed on public streets by private citizens? Locally, we often see people place their own "street signs" up, be it "private parking only" on the street in front of their house, handmade signs on back streets saying "SLOW - driveway ahead," or the recent placement of cardboard signs reading "CAUTION LOG TRUCK" on roads throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains. Frequently, these signs attempt to place extra restrictions on travel ("slow," "no parking") that seem to be beyond the jurisdiction of some neighbor who feels like putting up a sign. And as other signs degrade (like the "log trucks" signs around the county), they become eyesores– fading garbage nailed at eye level along our scenic byways. What are the rules on this? Who is authorized to put up a sign? What are they authorized to put on that sign? And if we find illegal/unauthorized signs, what can we do to have them removed? 

Answer:

California Vehicle Code section 21465 states, "No person shall place, maintain, or display upon, or in view of, any highway any unofficial sign, signal, device, or marking, or any sign, signal, device or marking which purports to be or is an imitation of, or resembles, an official traffic control device or which attempts to direct the movement of traffic or which hides from view any official traffic control device."

Another, perhaps more applicable section is 21467, "Every prohibited sign, signal, device, or light is a public nuisance, and the Department of Transportation, members of the California Highway Patrol, and local authorities are hereby authorized and empowered without notice to remove the same, or cause the same to be removed, or the Director of Transportation, the commissioner, or local authorities may bring an action as provided by law to abate such nuisance."

~Officer Sarah Jackson, California Highway Patrol


Watzon McWats September 26, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Ha. There's so many of these in Santa Cruz County, especially the rural areas. Folks have even been know to place "private road" signs and even gates over public roads.
kristylynne September 26, 2012 at 04:53 AM
"Extra restrictions on travel" LOL These are in place beacause people like you usual speed through!! Sometimes simply to let you know that theres an obstical or children playing near the road . "Private parking only" Park at whoevers house your visiting not in front of someone elses house. Alot of people live in the mts for privacy,If you wanna park all over the place go back to the city ! And speaking of eyes sores ur question is one too. " Caution log truck " .... your also prob one of those people who like to cut them off, the signs not for you but for the other drivers to watch out for people like you.
Butch Cole September 26, 2012 at 12:09 PM
The FACT is...people may NOT, legally descecrate public property with hideous home made signs. If there's a problem with speeding, etc. there are ways to get LEGAL signs put up by the PROPER authorities.
Adam D. September 26, 2012 at 03:15 PM
There isn't anything wrong with signs posted. Caution log truck... when you get hit by one you will probably write in with "How can I sue a company if I hit a log truck and they haven't put up a sign?" If a private citizen puts a sign up, it is there because 1. The city flat out ignored the request, 2. there is a problem, 3. People pay attention to signs. If you have a problem with a sign, just ignore it and be inconsiderate like the people who are the reason for it being there in the first place.
Samantha Campbell Carroll September 26, 2012 at 04:25 PM
I'll give you the parking signs and that they're ugly to look at. But most of the signs you listed are for safety. The people that drive those roads daily are the ones that know what the hazards are. The "proper authorities" see nothing but how much money they have to spend on a sign. I live on a street where people feel the need to speed. I've lived here 4 years now and there have been probably 50 accidents in front of my house because of people speeding, and people pulling out in front of them because they can't see around parked cars. Instead of putting up a stop sign, it was cheaper to paint the curbs red. Unfortunately that hasn't helped much. One accident, the cars ended up against my fence while my kids were outside playing. So I am all for the slow children playing signs no matter how ugly you may think they are.
John Pilge September 26, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Curious that the questions did NOT get answered. 'Who is authorized to put up a sign? What are they authorized to put on that sign? And if we find illegal/unauthorized signs, what can we do to have them removed? " It might be better if an editor would review the answers before posting them.
Watzon McWats September 26, 2012 at 06:10 PM
You make me laugh. We'll stay away from the mountains, if you promise to stay away from our beaches and shopping centers. Ohhh, see how that works? ;-) Share the county I say. I don't really have a problem with the "slow" signs and such, as in that case it's easy to determine what is and isn't a public legal sign. It's the fake "private road" and "no parking" signs that get me.
Watzon McWats September 26, 2012 at 06:13 PM
Oh, and something I'm starting to see in Watsonville. Home made red curbs! Ugh! Not cool. Half of them are painted really bad too.
margaret Anderson September 26, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Absolutely agree. When I see one of those signs I am extra cautious.
kristylynne September 26, 2012 at 10:35 PM
I dare you to take down mine or my neighbors signs lol. I understand the cardboard ones are ugly, I agree. They should at least be ones from the hardware store. Share... your making me laugh harder, And you say your beaches and shopping centers! How about people like you walk instead of drive, since the signs bother you so much. And the "private road" signs keep the traffic down.....duh. No parking means they dont want a bunch of strangers or people leaving their cars around. btw john no one awnsered the question cause no one cares except you cranker sign haters!... Nice post Adam :)
kristylynne September 26, 2012 at 10:36 PM
ooops cranky
Sergio September 26, 2012 at 11:11 PM
It would be nice for residents to have the right to post "no parking" signs in front of their homes. I live in Watsonville and in my neighborhood street parking is prime real estate. SOME neighbors have no clue about common courtesy or being neighborly for that matter. It’s only a few households that have permitted/unpermitted converted garages, but it affects everyone in the neighborhood. One home alone has eleven vehicles. Not being sarcastic here, but some residents literally have to park on the next street over since their street parking is being used by others. The city should consider charging for street parking permits. San Francisco charges about $100/yr. Could you imagine the money it would generate for Watsonville?
Watzon McWats September 26, 2012 at 11:17 PM
I actually do walk or ride my bike most of the time unless I'm leaving town. I totally understand wanting to keep traffic down, or not liking strangers parking in front of your house. I hate that too, but a public road is a public road. It doesn't belong to you, everyone has a right to drive and park on it.
kristylynne September 26, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Never said it belonged to me but your not the sign police either... get a life and leave our signs alone!
kristylynne September 26, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Oh great your a cyclist too... you prob hate those pesky stop signs too and run right through them almost get hit by a car and blame the driver for not sharing the road right ...lol
Watzon McWats September 26, 2012 at 11:44 PM
LOL! We must live on the same street. It makes just having two cars with a 1 car wide driveway a nightmare at times (which is why I sympathize with sign posters concerns, eventhough I'm against the signs). There are definitely some neighborhoods that could benefit from a permit system of some sort. I'd love to have one market spot in front of our house that was just for us.
Sarah Jackson September 26, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Read section 21465 one more time. It states, "No person shall place..." By process of elimination, and by reading the context of both sections, the person(s) authorized to place signs would be the proper roadway authority: County Roads for unincorporated areas, City public works for incorporated areas, or Caltrans for state highways. As far as having them removed, section 21467 names those with the authority to remove the signs. Call the applicable agency.
Watzon McWats September 26, 2012 at 11:46 PM
I have a very active and fulfilling life, which is why I'd like to be able to drive down public country roads without being bullied by homeowners and their phoney signs.
kristylynne September 26, 2012 at 11:58 PM
sorry you cant handle the truth watson
kristylynne September 26, 2012 at 11:58 PM
Or should I call you the sign police lol
kristylynne September 27, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Hey I know why dont you go ride in davenport on the coast its beautiful and away from all our signs :)
Watzon McWats September 27, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Actually no, I'm that weirdo that stops at stop signs and looks like a dork using hand signals all over town (because I have been hit by cars, and it sucks). I'm not a car hater either. I love cars just as much as bikes and have a couple of those in the stable as well. You're attitude is that if the stereotypical Santa Cruz Mountain dweller. You're one of those folks that give your neighbors a bad rap and spark rumors amongst flat landers of "crazy white shotgun toting albino colonies" and the like. That's a shame because there’s a lot of great people up there. You'll enjoy life a lot more by learning to share it with others than hating everyone that drives down your street. If you don't want people around, the proper thing to do is move to a gated community or down an actual private drive.
kristylynne September 27, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Well you called yourself a weirdo cause i think hand signals are a great thing, you know I use them all the time in my rundown gun carrying white trash truck :) And my neighbors actually have the bad rap because they let their dogs bark all day and in the wee morning hours. Whats with you and all this sharing ...maybe you dont share enough and are projecting it on me silly. And by the way i live on a OFFICIAL private drive thank you.
Watzon McWats September 27, 2012 at 01:22 AM
California Vehicle Code 490 and 670 provide an exemption for human powered vehicles to use private roads and driveways without recourse, so it's not the bike riding that I'm worrying about. And it's also not the REAL private roads that I'm concerned with, it's the fake ones. I've seen jankey home made "private road" signs up on the rural eastern stretches of Summit Road while exploring the mountains by car, and plenty of the little public dead end streets in the mountains have those or "resident traffic only" signs. The fake no-parking signs and red curbs (which really read, no parking, unless you're the guy that put up the sign or painted the curb), can be found all the way from the beach to the hills. If you live on a legitimate private drive, then I'm not sure what your concern is? Put up all the signs you want.
Watzon McWats September 27, 2012 at 01:24 AM
Sharing is caring.
Dana Caffrey September 27, 2012 at 11:29 AM
I am always annoyed when a car is parked in front of my house. I'm thinking of posting a NO PARKING sign in front of my house, do you think it is okay? It would be nice if the police will allow me to do so. http://www.trafficsignpro.com/
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