This month, the Only in Seattle Peer Network gathering dove deep into the world of special events in Seattle and neighborhood business districts. The Special Events Committee, chaired by Chris Swenson, walked through the current process for permitting a special event, talked about the benefits of special events in Seattle, and touched a bit on upcoming policy reform. Also, representatives from three neighborhood business districts presented brief case studies on the positive impacts of specific events in their neighborhood.
Special Events in Seattle
Kicking things off, Chris Swenson shared that in 2014 there were nearly 400 permitted special events compared to 20 in 1991 (that’s when the special events ordinance was adopted into what it is today). The City recognizes that special events build a sense of pride and place, support our creative culture, strengthen community engagement, and produce a positive economic impact for our city. In other words, that level of growth over the last 24 years is a good thing. The different types of special events include: free public and community events (e.g. Lunar New Year), free speech events (e.g. MLK March), public commercial events (e.g. Red Bull Soapbox Derby), ticketed sporting and cultural events (e.g. Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon), and promotional events. Chris also shared key information on when one needs a special events permit and teed up presentations from the following representatives of the Special Events Committee:
- Kyle Griggs, Seattle Parks Department
- Kate Leitch, Seattle Department of Transportation
- Tom Heun, Seattle Fire Department
- Henry Doan and Angelo Marfa, King County Public Health
- Susan Blaker, Washington State Liquor Control Board
- Karen Ko, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods
Chris wrapped things up with a word about the special events reform process that is currently underway. The 1991 ordinance did a good job at attracting special events, and now needs a closer look at a cost recovery system, appropriate fee levels, process improvements and the City’s vision for special events. Neighborhood business districts were pleased to hear this information early on in the process, and Chris shared that the timeline for reaching out to organizations will be summer 2015, with potential reform ordained in early 2016.