How-To-Guide: Process for a Block Party

In Washington, summer wouldn’t be summer without humidity and block parties. While the same can’t be said of the humidity, who doesn’t enjoy a good block party? On the surface, these community gatherings are a great way to meet neighbors, enjoy tasty food and swap stories. During a political year, they’ve also been known to attract candidates running for office, such as the one held on the 400 block of Columbia Road did earlier this year.

A well organized block party may seem like a day of fun-in-the-sun, but it actually takes a good deal of perseverance to organize.  If you live on a DC block interested in hosting this neighborly event, I’ve put together a step-by-step outline to help make the involved process as easy as possible, plus included additional hints where appropriate, which you can read after the jump

1st. OK’s from your neighbors on the block
Purpose: Collect signatures on the “Petition” from at least 51% of the block’s residents.

+Clipboard (backing for the petition)
+Calendar (to show the event’s date)

HINTS: 1) Plan accordingly – this step takes longer than you might expect!  2) Scheduling considerations: before “football season” starts; not during a 3-day weekend; Saturday with a rain date of Sunday so it’s on the same weekend.

2nd. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (DC HSEMA)
Location: 2720 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20032  (202) 727-3159; FAX = (202) 715-7288

Contact: Gloria Jackson (2nd floor)

Purpose: To submit “Neighborhood Block Party Temporary Street Closing Application” with “Petition“.  Ms. Jackson will send the application to the different agencies (Police, Fire/EMS, DOT, DCRA, WMATA) for their sign-off of your event.

+Current License
+Map of block party location
+Completed “Neighborhood Block Party Temporary Street Closing Application” with ‘Petition’ containing a minimum of 51% of the residents on the requested closure.

HINT: If your block is part of a METRO Bus route, then you’re not allowed to have a “block” party.

3rd. Office of Tax & Revenue (DC OTR)
Location: 1101 4th Street SW #270 | (202) 727-4TAX

Contact: n/a

Purpose: To be cleared by DC on any back taxes/payments.  Once done, go to DCRA (across the street) with the approved “Clean Hands Certification”

+Current License
+Completed “Clean Hands Certification” (Basic Business License Application)

HINT: Be patient  – this step could take from 30 minutes to 2 hours.

4th. Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs (DC DCRA)
Location: 1100 4th Street SW – 2nd floor | (202) 442-4311

Contact: Laverne Stewart

Purpose: To obtain a waiver from paying a special event fee. A signed Waiver (of the Special Event License Fee) Letter will be provided to you once only after you are cleared by the Office of Tax & Revenue.

+Current License
+Copy of “Neighborhood Block Party Temporary Street Closing Application” with “Petition” containing 51% of the neighbors on the requested closure.
+Completed “Special Events Application/Questionnaire”
+Approved “Clean Hands Certification” (Basic Business License Application)

HINT: Save time – stand in the “Licensing Line.”

5th. Permit Pickup @ DCHSEMA.
Purpose: Obtain your ‘Temporary Street Closing’ PERMIT.

+Current License
+Copy of “Waiver Letter” from DCRA

HINT: Within 72 hours of your event /or/ after 15 business days of submitting your application, contact Ms. Jackson (see 2nd step) to confirm your event was approved.

6th. Department of Transportation (DC DOT)
Location: 14th + U Streets (Reeves Bldg) – 2nd Floor

Contact: 9:30am – 4pm

Purpose: To obtain ‘No Parking’ signs to affix to specific block.

+Current License
+’Temporary Street Closing’ PERMIT

HINT: The signs are tall, so bring a large enough bag to carry them. String & scissors are helpful to affix signs to street posts.

7th. Metro Police Department (MPD)
Purpose: Contact your District’s MPD to tape off block as a safety precaution.

8th. Promote your event!
HINT: Distribute ‘Save the Date’ cards, post notices in visible locations & mention the event whenever you see your neighbors.


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8 Comments on “How-To-Guide: Process for a Block Party”

  1. Dan Gamber Says:

    Having gone through this process several times for our annual block party, I would say you got it pretty well – except for not mentioning the time required. Jackson takes weeks to clear the application. Further, step 5 should be more than 72 hours before the event, since you are supposed to post the signs 72 hours in advance. On 7 – I have yellow tape and close off the street myself. Some orange cones are placed at the entrance to the street to alert drivers – who can enter the street and turn into the alley.

  2. Magda Says:

    Someone on our block said we can’t close the block because HSEMA said it’s an emergency evacuation route, even though it’s actually not. At least it’s not on any signs or on the emergency evacuation route map.

  3. […] a block party on your block, you can find a quick step-by-step guide to help you get started here. Children patiently waiting for the moon bounce to […]

  4. EJM Says:

    Myself and some neighbors are in the very early stages of planning a block party and this page has been very helpful. We would like to offer live music at our block party and were wondering if there is any kind of a noise ordinance variance that must be obtained – it seems like DC has recently passed a more stringent noise ordinance – but we can’t seem to find any information. Thought I’d check here before making some phone calls.

  5. ~mh Says:

    I am unaware of the noise ordinances related to live music.

    For the Block Party process [Step 4], on the Special Event Application Questionnaire, under ‘Mechanical Amusement Rides and Entertainment’ question #14 asks “Describe the sound amplification (if any) that will be used at your event.” My past accepted answer has been: HOME STEREO WITH SPEAKERS.

    Further, there’s a ‘Supplemental Permits’ section which requires completion of the Special Event Supplemental Permit Application for event using temporary structures, such as tents, stages, fences, bleachers, electrical, etc… []

  6. K Says:

    The procedures to apply for a block party has now changed. One must apply through DDOT, as of 04/2012.

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