Mayor London N. Breed issued an Executive Directive on Friday, July 5 to improve and streamline the City’s permitting process for special events, including street fairs, festivals, parades, and neighborhood block parties. Under the existing system, San Francisco’s community and cultural event producers must navigate a complex and decentralized City permitting process. Executive Directive 19‑02 directs the City Administrator and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development to co‑chair a Special Events Steering Committee—comprised of representatives from City agencies and departments—to review the current system for permitting special events and identify opportunities for improving interagency coordination and customer experience.
“Everyone in our city should have the ability to experience arts, culture, and community in their neighborhood,” said Mayor Breed. “Our iconic street fairs, concerts, cultural events and neighborhood block parties help us to celebrate our community and make San Francisco more vibrant. We need to make it easier to put these events on, not force people to spend countless hours applying for permits.”
Mayor Breed’s Executive Directive will help the City centralize, standardize, and clarify the permitting process for special events by updating the permitting system to ensure that all events are safe and successful. Outdoor community and cultural events—including street fairs, music festivals, and parades—produce more than $1.1 billion in direct and indirect impact on the City’s economy, attract over 3 million attendees annually, and support 9,300 private sector jobs.
“From neighborhood fairs to outdoor music festivals, special events are a major economic driver for San Francisco, creating jobs for our residents, bringing visitors to our city, and supporting local merchants and small businesses,” said Joaquín Torres, Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. “This directive will help us streamline the process for organizers providing social spaces for people to engage with our neighborhoods and build community through shared experience and cultural expression.”
“I commend Mayor Breed for her innovative leadership to address the challenges facing our special events and entertainment communities, along with her deep commitment to support equitable access to entertainment, arts, and culture across all San Francisco neighborhoods,” said Maggie Weiland, Executive Director of the Entertainment Commission. “We are looking forward to collaborating with other City agencies to ensure a friendly, streamlined, and efficient permitting process for events of all sizes, as well as the City agencies tasked with supporting these events.”
Currently, obtaining comprehensive information on event applications, applying for permits, and obtaining approval for special events is difficult for event organizers because there is no central department or website that coordinates the process. Permitting a major event in San Francisco can involve eight or more City agencies, each with different fees for permits and City services. As a result, the City places the burden on event organizers to achieve compliance, and City departments face challenges in ensuring successful and safe events.
“The current permitting process creates inequity among special event producers, particularly those who work to activate underserved neighborhoods in San Francisco,” said Tyra Fennell, Founding Director of Imprint City. “The Mayor's Executive Directive will help alleviate what feels like a disjointed permitting process, empowering all event producers to prepare and plan successful projects.”
“Producing events in San Francisco gets more challenging every year,” said Patrick Finger, Executive Director of Folsom Street Events. “I am very pleased that Mayor Breed is taking steps to simplify the process.”
“How Weird Street Faire is fully supportive of the formation of the Special Events Steering Committee at the directive of the Mayor,” said Michael O’Rourke, Executive Producer of How Weird Street Faire. “This will enable a more efficient process for permitting special events, which are an important part of the cultural fabric of San Francisco.”
“As Co-founder and Producer of Sunset Mercantile and current organizer of the monthly Inner Sunset Sunday’s Flea Market, I am thrilled at the prospect of a more streamlined and efficient permitting process through Mayor Breed’s proposed Executive Directive,” said Angie Petitt-Taylor. “The current number of City departments, fees and permits one must go through is confusing, daunting and cost prohibitive to the community organizers who are simply trying to bring the community together, and to the small businesses, artists and organizations hoping to connect with the community through these events.”
This Executive Directive builds off of previous efforts to improve the City’s special events process. In response to recommendations from the City Controller and the Civic Bridge program, the City has developed a Master Calendar of Special Events to have a singular source of special event information. Additionally, the City created an Outdoor Event Planning and Permitting Guide, which is an online roadmap designed to empower event organizers with the knowledge to produce safer and more successful special events.
The Special Events Steering Committee will convene this summer and fall and will provide Mayor Breed with their recommendations within the next six months.