Housing Complex

D.C. Council Might Make It Easier to Party

The District, from what I've seen, isn't a big block party town—rarely are streets shut down for the purpose of eating, dancing, playing, whatever, in the summer, with your neighbors, with kids running around out of danger from rushing cars. Sure, people have cookouts, but they tend to be invite-only, and someone's personal front yard is never quite as inviting to strangers. At the same time, D.C. is rich with micro neighborhood associations, block watches, and listservs that cover only a couple of streets. So the absence of these community-building events seems odd.

Until you try to apply for a block party permit, of course, which not only requires a form that must be hand-delivered to the not-very-Metro-accessible department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and signatures from at least half the residents of the block, but also the same "clean hands" certificate required of people trying to get a liquor license or open a business, which must be hand-delivered to the Office of Tax and Revenue (and then taken back to HSEMA). Finally, you need to go to the Reeves Center to pick up placards from the Department of Transportation. That's not an insurmountable level of paperwork, but it's probably stymied more than a couple neighborhood efforts.

To make the process a little quicker, Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Muriel Bowser, and Phil Mendelson have sponsored a bill that would at least get rid of the Clean Hands requirement (how often do you hear of councilmembers trying to ease regulations?). Which means this summer could feature a lot more loungey evenings with neighbors you've never even met.

The bill gets a hearing on January 20.

  • @CCCAPrez

    block parties aside, it looks like we hear about them trying to ease sensible (proposed) regulations quite a bit:

    Unwilling or unable to pay out of their own pockets, Brown has told members they can dip into their constituent service funds to pay their share of the function. Each member has to come up with $380 for the [$5,000] party, which is being held at the Washington Court Hotel....

    D.C. regulations state constituent services funds may be established to offer “charitable, scientific, educational, medical, recreational and other services” to promote residents’ “general welfare.”


  • Skipper

    Why do people have to go to the Dept of Homeland Security for a block party permit? That seems like ridiculous overkill. Why can't you just get the permit from your local police precinct?

  • DC Guy

    They need to be able to coordinate and notify emergency services, DDOT etc.

  • DCist

    Are they interested in getting rid of the "Clean Hands" requirement so every Councilmember can host a block party? Yes, reducing the number of hands/agencies touching the permit makes sense -- how about using DDOT's web based portal? -- but "Clean Hands" is good public policy, it forces folk who owe DC money (taxes, fines) or child support to pay up. DC needs the money. Maybe our two job CM's (who with their DC part time salary make more than most people, plus have huge staffs to help then do their work before the Council (part timers with staff?) don't appreciate such need.

  • DJBays

    Very good information. Having helped organize several block parties, the process can take more time than the duration of the actual block party. But it is doable.

    Seems like it would be easier all around if the agencies could share the information electronically rather than require people to shuffle paperwork from one agency to another.

  • http://www.firstprop.in First Properties

    That's good for party makers

  • Sarah

    In parts of upper NW, people just put up saw horses and signs and close the block, and don't bother with the bureaucrats downtown. MPD is none the wiser.

  • MBG

    It isn't the federal Department of Homeland Security but DC's Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (used to just be DCEMA).

  • danmac

    @djbays is right DC needs to do more to coordinate requests that require multiple agency approvals to pass submissions from one to another or simultaneously to multiple agencies for processing with a tracking set up like the DCRA permit tracking on line

  • Mrs. D

    This is useful information, but disheartening. My block has a block party every year, but hosted between three neighbors' back yards. We had floated the idea of closing down the block to make it a true block party, but no one knew how to do that. As it stands, if we can get our neighbors to plan early (shouldn't be too hard, they put on a pretty good show!), we may still try this, but hand-carrying applications from agency to agency? Things that bring the community together should be encouraged, and if, as had been mentioned, we could just go to the police station (a) it would make things substantially easier, and (b) they would have the first-hand knowledge to support it, since the local police are always invited and we have a habit of running hot dogs and sodas out to them whenever the units on patrol pass by during the party, so they know we're good people! :)