Monday, November 16, 2015

Want to host a block party? Here's how and where you can (and can't) host one

The other day, a reader emailed me asking about the procedures to host a block party, a party where the city shuts down the block and you have friends and neighbors take over the street for grilling, hanging out, games and the link. I wasn't sure the process, so I did some research and found out how and where you can host one.

The District's Department of Transpiration (DDOT) runs the permitting process for block parties, and they have more information about hosting a block party here, with the following requirements:
  • Applicant must be an adult resident (21 years or older) of the block being closed.
  • Area must not exceed two intersecting streets (i.e., must be limited to one block).
  • Street must be reopened no later than 10 pm
  • Applicant must obtain consent of 51% of households on the block.
  • Vending is prohibited. No sales, fees, or donations shall be solicited or accepted at the event.
  • No sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages allowed.
  • Accessibility for emergency equipment via an unobstructed 20-foot emergency access lane must be maintained at all times.
  • Posting of street closure/no parking signs must be completed no less than 72 hours prior to date of event.
There are some other requirements too: according to DDOT staff I spoke with, the street must be categorized as a "local" street, which is why I created the above map using data from the DCGIS office -- green is local, red is everything else. You'll see that eliminates most of Columbia Heights south of Park Road. You can mouse over the street to see the name, and click it to see its "functional class" or street type.

However, just because your street is categorized as a local street, it doesn't mean that the block party will automatically be approved -- the permit goes through various agencies like MPD, the fire department, and WMATA, and they can deny it if they find the street is too important, it will impede emergency vehicles, or other reasons. If it's on a Metrobus route, the party still may be approved if WMATA can redirect the buses safely and easily.

In addition, it can't be on an official emergency evacuation route, but those are never local streets, so that is kind of redundant.

To apply for the actual permit, you use DDOT's online permitting system called TOPS and choose "Parking/Occupancy permit." There seems to be no fee.

A few other considerations: this will take some time -- getting people on the block to agree, getting the permit back in time and so on. I would start working on it as soon as possible.

I hope this helps people have more parties! They are really a blast. And make sure you get a moon bounce, because they are awesome.

UPDATE: A commenter noted that 11th Street is colored red, but Columbia Heights Day is held there. I believe that's because Columbia Heights Day is not a block party but a "special event," which is a different permit. Block parties can only be one block and can't sell alcohol, whereas Columbia Heights Day does both.


  1. 11st in CoHi is marked as 'not allowed', but it is often used for block parties.

  2. I think that's a different "special event" permit. Block parties can only be one block whereas Columbia Heights Day is 2 blocks, and also sells alcohol, which is not allowed in block parties.


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