The City of Seattle published the final of Crown Hill Urban Village Action Plan. It included a proposal to make a pedestrian route more enjoyable by adding a “festival Street.” I was a native Seattleite and had never heard of this term, partly because there is no festival street north of the Ship Canal. It turns out that a festival street designation is an effective way to pedestrianize a space temporarily on a recurring basis. This is because a road can be designated as a “festival street” which allows for more pedestrian events.
The Ordinance to expand the powers and authority of the City’s Director for Transportation was approved ten years ago. One of those power was the right to designate public locations as “festival Streets.” This is defined as “public area[s] or part[s]] of public place[s] that [have] had been designated…for recurring temporary closure of vehicular use for the purposes of pedestrian-oriented specific activities, as established under Section 11.14.203 in the Seattle Municipal Code. The Festival Street program will be implemented by the Seattle Department of Transportation’s director.
Today, six festival streets are designated in the city. These include:
- 8th Avenue North lies between the two Blocks office building at Harrison Street/Thomas Street. This street segment in South Lake Union was designed to be more friendly to pedestrians.
- Canton Alley runs from the block bordered South King Street, 8th Avenue South or South Weller Street to the 7th Avenue South. 2017 saw the alley repaved. The alley has historical significance due to the surrounding East and West Kong Yick homes, which were built 1910 in order to house Chinese American pioneers.
- East Barbara Bailey Way between Broadway East, Nagle Place. This festival street is located at the Capitol Hill lightrail Station transit-oriented development. It is also right in front an exit from the station. It is most popularly used for the Capitol Hill Farmers Market.
- Nord Alley is located between the blocks bordered by South Main Street. Occidental Avenue South. South Jackson Street. 1st Avenue South. Canton Alley, which was also repaved in 2018, included this alley. This festival street was last month the site for Costumed Dogs.
- South Roberto Maestas Street runs between 16th Avenue South (16th Avenue South) and 17th Avenue South (17th Avenue South) in Beacon Hill. This street is found in the middle Beacon Hill transit-oriented developments, light rail station, El Centro De La Raza Building, and is a part of the El Centro De La Raza Building.
- Southwest Snoqualmie Street. It is between 37th Avenue Southwest, and 36th Avenue Southwest. This street is also known by the Triangle Festival Street. This street was named as part the West Seattle YMCA’s Expansion and Renovation project.
How to make a new street festival
The 2019 SDOT Director’s Rule 12019 was released as the most recent festival street rules document. The authority of SDOT director to authorize rules of festival streets including all duties for implementation was discussed as one of the first topics. It includes details on definitions, criteria for new festivals streets, how to remove them, and permits rules.
If you are looking for street options that could be strong festival contenders, then only alleys and streets that aren’t arterial can be used. Intersections must be excluded. There is a long list street types that are considered to be appropriate for consideration as festival streets. It is important to choose street types that are close to major transit routes, such East Barbara Bailey Way at Capitol Hill’s light rail station. Also, those that are in pedestrian-oriented areas such as Nord Alley near Pioneer Square, are suitable. Streets that require minimal detours to traffic and are free from any adverse impact on parking are considered good candidates for festival street. Streets that serve single-family residences more than streets that serve multiple families, include streets with multiple driveways or streets whose closure could affect transit facilities’ access to them, or those on emergency routes.
Designation is the most complex process as described in the 2019 regulations document. To request that a street become a festival road, anyone can make an application to the SDOT administrator. The applicant must alert the surrounding communities as part the process. Communication materials must include details about the proposed festival street, the contact person and their information, along with notes about other places. The outreach also has to be culturally-competent. The application must also include a site map, documentation of outreach, summary feedback, adjoining property contract information and proposed traffic control plan. After meeting all requirements, the SDOT director may make a decision.
A festival street’s removal process is the same, but it is easier. Anyone can request to have a festival street removed by using the same communication methods and outreach. You must provide the following information to the SDOT Director: the reason for your request, documentation of outreach and summary of feedback.
SDOT Street Use Festival Street permits are very easy to obtain. These permits can only apply to designated streets. The traffic control measures that were specified in the submitted plan during designation are the responsibility for permit holders. Although it is not possible to find a copy of Client Assistance Memo 2504, an older edition does exist. There is only one permit required and a fee payment. Neighborhoods should make frequent use of these designated areas. The permit should only contain a schedule with approved activities for the entire year.