How to Throw a Block Party in Vancouver

Lunch Meet - VPSN block party held in 2012.

[Author’s Note: Summer is the perfect time to get outside and get to know your neighbours. The Vancouver Public Space Network published this excellent guide to throwing a block party in Vancouver (original article here). For more details, visit this City of Vancouver Block Party info page.]

Summertime is well under way! Celebrate the best of the season with some neighbourly fun ‐ grab those paper plates and red solo cups, plan a block party and bring your street together for some impromptu festivities. The City of Vancouver has a waived permit fees and provides barricades and basic insurance – which makes the process easier than ever. Pick a weekend and transform your street block from road space to vibrant community space.

Block parties come in all shapes and sizes, and can easily go into the early fall season. What to include in your event? How about music, a communal BBQ or pot‐luck, kids’ activities, games, a community discussion, water fights, a culinary competition, a giant art project, an outdoor movie, a neighbourhood talent show, a community garage sale… the ideas are endless!

What You Will Need:

  • About 3‐4 weeks prep time
  • One neighbour to act as the key organizer
  • Support of about 2/3 of households on your block
  • A refundable deposit of $50
  • Your imagination!

How to make it happen:

(1) The City has a couple of forms that you’ll need to fill out. The first, is a block “sign‐off” form – You’ll need to collect the signatures of at least 65% of households on the block. The second is an “on‐line permit form” – which asks you to provide some basic details about your proposed event (e.g. the name of the key organizer, the event, number of guests, etc.). These forms are available at  vancouver.ca – search “Block Party”. Once you submit your online forms it takes about two weeks to process.

Hint: As you collect signatures for the event, canvas your neighbours about any ideas they might have for the event. Share the organizing tasks so everyone can lend a hand.

(2) Check that your insurance requirements are sufficient. You get basic coverage through the City, but if you want additional coverage, you’ll need to arrange it yourself.

(3) Arrange to pick up traffic barricades. These are available at a number of community centres around the City. (When you complete your permit form you’ll be asked to identify which centre you’d like to pick the barricades up at).

A few considerations: Block parties are meant to be good times for all. With that in mind, there are a few things that the permit process will ask you to acknowledge:

  • Keep alcohol on private property only.
  • Be respectful of party noise and not amplify music (or at least be sure not to crank it too loud for too long – so you don’t generate complaints and run afoul of the City’s Noise Bylaw ).
  • Keep road access open to emergency vehicles (only block the street with the moveable barricades), and make sure tables and other structures are easy to move.
  • Be sure to clean up afterwards – and aim for a zero waste event with proper recycling and compost!

Enjoy!!!

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For more details, be sure to visit theCity of Vancouver Block Party info page.

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Jillian Glover is a communications advisor who specializes in urban issues and transportation. She is a former Vancouver City Planning Commissioner and holds a Master of Urban Studies degree from Simon Fraser University. She was born and raised in Vancouver and is very interested in how people in urban environments engage in their cities. In her spare time, she writes about urban issues at her blog, This City Life – which you can visit at www.thiscitylife.tumblr.com.