AG 1094: Street and Sidewalk Activities

With a Street and Sidewalk Activities permit, you can use all or part of a public street, sidewalk, alley, or plaza for an activity. The activity may be for single, multiple, or recurring dates. (Note: This permit is not meant for utility or construction-related closures.)

Check the current Street Use permitting timelines and start planning early to allow time for permitting!

This guide covers our application and review process for these permits. Please review this before applying!

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Step 1: Determine what permit type fits your event

Note: By this point, you have already determined that you do NOT need a Special Events permit. If you are uncertain, go back to the Street and Sidewalk Activities main web page!

There are two main types of Street and Sidewalk Activity permits – public and private. An event must be categorized as one or the other. Any event with a private component in public right-of-way is a private event. Please read the following descriptions and FAQs to decide which type fits your event. We will let you know if we have questions or concerns about your choice during the review process. We reserve the right to re-classify your event based on our review of your proposal.

Private Activities

If you need a ticket or must pay a fee to enter or participate in the activities, or if there is a suggested donation dollar amount posted or advertised, or if the event is intended only for invited guests, the event is private.

Examples of private activities

  • You're hosting a kids’ day camp! Anyone can sign up, and there's a registration charge.
  • You're planning a big birthday party. Anyone can stop by, but refreshments and the piñata activity are for invited guests only.
  • Your school wants to close the street between the parking lot and the stadium for a big game. All are welcome but you need to buy a game ticket!
  • You’re planning a private wedding with invited guests. Anyone may walk by and watch, but the ceremony, seating, programs, and party are for guests.
  • Your organization is celebrating their 1,000th client-served! Your signs and flyers say: “Come celebrate with us and help us serve 1000 more! Suggested donation: $20”
  • You are having a celebration to recognize your dedicated volunteers, and it is invitation only.

Public Activities

If your event does not meet the definition of Private Activities above, it is a public event for the purpose of permitting.

Examples of public activities

  • Your organization is hosting a maker’s market for local hand-crafted goods on several weekends. Everyone is invited. Come support our local artists and craftspeople!
  • Your community group wants to hold an art walk. You'll also host music, theater, dance, and other performances throughout the day. All are welcome! You have donations boxes placed throughout the activity area, but no suggested donation amounts are posted.
  • Your business district is planning a sidewalk sale. Come one and all. Buy, browse, or just say hi!
  • Your community wants to paint a neighborhood intersection mural! It’s a public activity with many ways to take part. It brings neighbors together and serves the community in a lasting way.
  • You're planning a grand opening for your new storefront business or community organization. Free coffee and cocoa! Please stop by!

Frequently Asked Questions about Private and Public Activities Street and Sidewalk Activities

How does vending fit into this picture?

Vendors may be part of a private or public activity. If the vendors can serve anyone, then the vending itself does not make the activity private. Purchasing goods from a vendor is not the same as paying to enter or take part in an activity. See details below for what you need to know about activities with vendors.

What about café streets or other closures for business activities?

We’re glad you asked! You likely noticed the recent growth of outdoor cafes in Seattle. They’ve been very popular and have drawn many pedestrians. The café owners have their own permits. We permit the street closure as a Street and Sidewalk Activity. That closure increases the street’s walkability for shopping, dining, and other recreation. It is a Public Activity.

What if we allow people to walk or bicycle through the permitted activity area?

We appreciate you thinking about this! Moving through an event is not the same as being able to take part in all age-appropriate activities. Allowing people to walk by does not in itself make an event public. We do require that sidewalks remain open for people to travel through even while the event is occurring.

Are informational materials and donation boxes allowed at a public event?

They can be. We may allow events that include informational tables or booths under this permit. And donation boxes that are 100% voluntary and list no suggested donation amount are fine. Most events of this type are public, but there may be some exceptions.

If a private business sponsors the event, does that make the event private? And if a non-profit organization or community group sponsors the event, does that make it public?

No, not necessarily. The difference between public and private depends on who can attend and who can participate, not on who sponsors or hosts the activity.

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Step 2: Plan your event details

Planning and Community Support

When will your activity happen?

  • What are the date(s) of your event? Is it a single day or weekend, an entire week or two, one day each month for a year, or something else? Make sure all dates and days of the week are decided upon before you apply.
  • What are the start and end times for each day of the event? Remember to include set-up and take-down activities in your requested hours!

How many people will attend?

  • What is the greatest number of people you expect to attend at any one time during the event? Reminder: If “more than 300 people,” then you’ll need to apply for a permit from the Special Events Office instead.

Tell your neighbors early!

  • Do your neighbors and community support the event? Coordinate and gather support early! Street closures are required to have a public notice and comment period during the application review. Build this into your timeline when planning!
  • How will access work to private property? Jointly decide how the space will be used and create a plan for access to driveways, loading zones, and for deliveries.

What activities are you planning?

  • Will you be having an art walk, a recycling event, a taste of the neighborhood featuring nearby restaurants? If you will be having vendors or participants, see the detailed section below for what you need to know about activities with vendors.
  • What furniture, displays, equipment, or other objects do you plan to set up and where? Note: If you plan to set up tents, canopies, and heaters, you may need separate approval from the Seattle Fire Department

Activities with vendors

What you need to know:

  • Vendors may sell, promote or share information about their services at your activity. “Vendors” include commercial businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, advocacy groups, and any other participants you are scheduling to be at the activity.
  • Up to 10 street vendors (sited between curbs) is typically the maximum number of vendors allowable per activity while still meeting the requirements of this permit type. More than 10 vendors may be allowed based on the specific block conditions and the overall scope of the activity, but keep in mind large events require a Special Event permit.
  • Show where each vendor will be with dimensions on your site plan. This can be drawn as a simple box on the site plan and labeling with dimensions, accessory objects, and type (e.g. 10’ X 10’ tent for photo booth, 23’ long X 8’ wide food truck for ABC Foods).
  • Make a list with the name, type, and role of each vendor at each activity and provide this with your application.
  • All vendors must have all required licenses and permits to operate within the City of Seattle and the permittee is responsible for checking this for each vendor. See the list below for the most common licenses and permits:
  • A Certificate of Liability Insurance and endorsement (see example here) naming the City of Seattle as an additional insured is required for all private activities and food vendors. We may require additional insurance coverage for certain activities including:
    • inflatables;
    • pony rides, petting zoos, or other animal related activities with non-standard household pets;
    • play structures, exercise structures, or trampolines;
    • competitive athletic events;
    • motorized individual participant activities; or
    • food vendors who do not have their own insurance.

Activity Location

Sidewalk or public plaza activities

Activities can take place on a sidewalk or public plaza, but know that sidewalks must have a path for people to still move through the block during your activity. This path is called the “pedestrian clear zone” and should be at least 6 feet in width at most locations and 8 feet in width on Downtown Streets. See our Street Type map to check your location.

Street closure activities

What you need to know:

  • Activities can use an entire street or partial street, but closures typically approved under this permit are no more than one block in length (no intersection closures) and are not located on an arterial or a street with a bus route. Check the street type and for bus routes on the map here.
    • If there is no line-dotted or solid-running along the middle of the street, it is most likely a non-arterial street.
    • The map linked above shows non-arterials as grey and arterials in other colors
  • Activities proposing more than one block or a street with a bus route require a Special Event Permit. Activities on an arterial street almost always require a Special Event Permit, however we may be able to review applications on arterials on a case-by-case basis if there is a limited impact to the transportation system. Even if we cannot approve your proposal under this permit type, we are more than happy to provide coaching and help guide you to the appropriate permitting path for your event!
  • Sidewalks must remain open for people to move through the block; only the street can be closed.
  • Can you maintain a 20-foot fire lane at all times? You may place objects like light tables and chairs in the fire lane, but not heavier or larger objects. In an emergency, quick removal is crucial! (And it’s not just for fire and emergency trucks to get to people at your event, it’s also in case they need to get through on the street to access a nearby location.)
  • Will your event be in a parking stall or need to restrict on street parking?  If yes, you will need to also apply for Temporary No Parking Permit. See CAM 2114  Temporary No Parking Signs and Easels for more information. Ready to apply for the No Parking Permit? See how to apply in a Paid Area or in a Non-Paid Area.
  • Where do I get traffic barricades and signage?  As the permit holder, you are responsible for getting all the required barricades and signage required. There are private companies you can contact for traffic control purchases or rentals.
  • You will need to submit a plan showing how you will close the street safely for your event. See Step 3 below for details on how to prepare a street closure plan.

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Step 3:  Prepare your plans 

Site plan

All applications are required to submit a site plan. It shows exactly where your activity will be on the right-of-way, what objects you will be using, and the existing conditions. You can use a template or an aerial view street map (see below), or even hand-draw a plan. Whatever method you choose must include all needed information and measurements.

We have a Site Plan Template available for your use or you may use a public aerial map as a base.

What should my site plan show?  

  • north arrow, property lines, the width of the sidewalk and street  
  • adjacent building address, street name, and adjacent streets 
  • if your event is on a sidewalk, show all objects and how much space will be left for people walking on the sidewalk, this is called the pedestrian clear zone
  • show all objects and structures proposed for your event with dimensions  
    • TIP: draw a simple outline of all the objects with the length, width, and height in feet and inches included. Next add a label (e.g.  ‘Table,’ ‘Art Easel,’ ‘Booth,’ etc.). If your event will have vendors or participant booths, show the footprint of each booth on your site plan  
    • show existing street and sidewalk features and the distance between each (trees, utility poles, etc.) and your structures or objects 
  • if you are using a street, show the 20’ fire lane on the site plan and see the section below on preparing a street closure plan  
  • review your Site Plan: does it reflect the use of the right-of-way? If yes, congratulations!

Street Closure Plan  

If your event includes a street closure, you will need to submit a street closure plan. This is different than the site plan. A street closure plan shows where you place barricades and signs to safely close the street and route the traveling public around the closure.

For simple activities on non-arterial streets, applicants may be able to create their own street closure plan. Depending on the mobility impacts, complexity and the street type proposed for your event, you may be required to submit a formal Traffic Control Plan for our review and approval. See CAM 2111 Checklist for Traffic Control Plan Submittal for when a TCP is required and tips on how to prepare one.

How do I prepare a street closure plan?

You’ve already checked for the street type and for bus routes on our map here. If not, go to Street Closure Activities section above.

Next, go to our Traffic Control Base Map. You may also find these images of traffic control signs and barricades helpful. Here are a few tips on using the base map:  

  • place an address in the search box at the top  
  • Go to the bottom of the screen and click on the Layers List – which looks like a stack of three pages or books. A pop-up screen will appear. 
  • In the layers pop-up screen, check the things you’d like shown on the map:
    • Street Name Labels 
    • KC Metro Stops
    • Parking Pay Stations
    • Water Hydrants 
    • Street Trees 
    • Utility Poles
    • Right of Way (red lines)

Start drawing your plan! You must include all needed information and measurements listed below:

Show the street location, adjacent streets, and event details:

  • add the adjacent address or block number (e.g. 500 block of 5th Ave between Cherry Stand Columbia St) 
  • include the days of the week, date(s), and hours of the street closure  
  • label all street names and cross street names. Label each street as an arterial or non-arterial
  • show curb ramps, crosswalks, and the total width of the street  
  • show and label the 20-foot fire lane

Show the type and location of traffic barricades and signage:  

  • add barricades and label as a Type 2 or Type 3. Show exactly where barricades will be placed. If you are adjacent to an arterial street, Type 3 barricades are required to close the street on the end adjacent to the arterial
  • show street closed signage in the center of the street on both ends of the closure   
  • no-turn signs are required if you are adjacent to an arterial on the adjacent street

As the permit holder, you are responsible for getting all the required barricades and signage required. There are private companies you can contact for traffic control device purchasing and rentals.

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Step 4: Gather your required documents

You must submit the following documents with your initial application or the application will not be assigned for review!

  • a site plan as described in Step 3.
  • a letter of authorization, ONLY IF the applicant is different from the owner or the financially responsible party as listed on the application.

Depending on your event details, you may also need one or more of the following documents. These are not due when you submit your application. Your reviewer will let you know if you must provide these.

  • For street closures, a street closure plan as described in Step 3.
  • Will your event obstruct access to a neighbor’s driveway? If so, you may be asked to submit an email or letter from that neighbor expressing their support for the event.
  • Will your event be in an Historic or Landmark District? If yes, a Certificate of Approval may be requested during review.
  • You may need to show proof that you notified your neighbors. This depends on location, size, and closure type.
  • Events with vendors should provide a list of participating vendors
  • A Certificate of Liability Insurance and endorsement is required for all private activities and may be required for public activities based on the event details. You can learn more about this with CAM 2102

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Step 5: Apply online!

To help us ensure we issue your permit before your event, apply at least 6 to 8 weeks before the first event date.

When you are ready to apply, go to the Seattle Services Portal. Note: if you've never used the Portal before, you'll need to register and set up an account first. See this helpful article or video on how to do this. Then see this article on how to activate your account once you’ve registered.

Once you log in, follow the steps below:

  • Under "Create New" select "Permits-Street Use"
  • Under “Select a Record Type” select "Short Term Use" and "Temporary Activation"
    • When later entering the “Use Code Description,” choose “Private Street/Sidewalk Activities” or “Public Street/Sidewalk Activities
    • If your activity will have vending, also select in the “Use Code Description,” “Temporary Event Vending” from the drop-down list.
  • When entering your "Project Description,” please include a detailed description of your event. Include planned participants, activities, dates, duration, vending, etc. More information is better!

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Step 6: Application review, fees, and decision

This article explains our permit process. Street and Sidewalk Activity permits follow the “Full Review” process. After your application is submitted, it will be screened to make sure we have all the information needed to continue the review process. If we need any additional information or revisions, you will be sent a “Corrections” notice from the Seattle Services Portal. You must respond before the review can continue! Here is an article on how to respond to corrections requests.

A public notice and comment period is required for activities with a street closure. Your reviewer will prepare the public notice documents and provide you with instructions on how to complete this requirement during the review process.

Once the review of your application is complete, we will either:

      • Approve the application;
      • Approve the application with modifications/conditions; or
      • Deny the application

We will inform you of any modifications, conditions, or reasons for denial.

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Step 7: Permit issuance and inspection

Tell the people on the block your activity is happening at least 3 days before it begins. We've created guidelines for when and how you need to tell your neighbors about events. You can learn more with our CAM 2117.

Your permit is not valid until it is fully issued. Before we can issue your permit, you must pay your fees. For fee information, visit our How to Estimate and Pay Permit Fees page. All our permits have issuance fees and depending on your proposal, you may be charged fees for secondary review and inspections.

Once we issue your permit, you will be notified by email. Your permit document will then be available on the Seattle Services Portal. If you need help finding and printing your permit, please see this help article.

Carefully review the approval email, your permit, and all approved documents! Set up your activity as shown on the approved permits and plans. We want to ensure your event is as safe as it is enjoyable.

Finally, our inspectors may visit all recurring and full-year activity closures. They may inspect longer-duration or periodic activities based on details and site conditions. Inspection fees are charged separately at our current hourly rate.

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Greg Spotts, Director
Address: 700 5th Ave, Suite 3800, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 34996, Seattle, WA, 98124-4996
Phone: (206) 684-7623

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