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Posted on Mon, Jul 27, 2009 : 8 a.m.

How to host a block party

By Edward Vielmetti

In neighborhoods around town, people take back the streets from the automobile for a day and host a block party. Here's what you need to do with the city of Ann Arbor to make that all happen. I'm not going to go into party favors (funny hats, balloons, bounce castles) here, but I do hope to demystify the process of dealing with the city.

I'm writing this down in part because I have never done it - even though I live on a block where we have had neighborhood potlucks in people's houses in the winter time. And the best way to figure something out is to write it down, in the hopes that someone else has done it and can fill in the blanks.

1. Get a list of all of the neighbors you have on the block that you want to close, so that you can contact them and get them to be part of it. You might get this from a neighborhood association, a neighborhood email list, or simply by walking from door to door and knocking. At least 70% of the people on the affected street have to sign up for the city to OK the street closing.

2. Get a copy of the

Block Party Permit - Revised 072308.pdf
(link to PDF from from the web site of the Ann Arbor City Clerk. You'll need to print out and fill in this form to get all of the approvals you need from the city for the party. The earlier you can get this in, the more time you will have to deal with any questions that come up; allow at least 5 days before you want the actual party to happen.

3. You need approval from the Police Department for the party. There are at least two things that the police will be concerned about: excessive noise, and open alcohol. Remember that all regular alcohol rules apply, which means keeping beer out of the streets. You are also expected to have a party noise level that is low enough that if neighbors aren't participating that they are ok with the noise.

4. You will need approval from the Fire Marshall for the party. They will be looking to make sure that if you have any propane grills in the street that you tell them where they will be, if there's going to be any tents they know where they are, and the fire hydrants have a clear access. If you ask nicely, it's often possible to get the Fire Department to send a truck out.

5. Barricades are available from the city for free for you to block off the street. Don't plan to use vehicles to block off the street - for one thing, it confuses drivers who don't know that the street is blocked, and for another thing it's not ok. The Transportation Department has to sign off on the party, and if you want to take over a major thoroughfare the answer may very well be no.

Block parties have to be over by 9pm (or by dusk, if that's earlier) and you have to clean up after yourself. Enjoy yourself, and invite the neighborhood!