City of Oakland Introduces Online Permit Intake for Special Events Permits

New intake and review process is expected to speed up review times for 500+ Special Events permits approved by the City each year

permit webpage

Oakland, CA –– The City of Oakland is excited to announce a significant enhancement in its permitting process with the launch of a digital submittal portal for Special Event permit applications.

Special events producers are now able to submit the necessary information online to create an instant permit record for processing by the City. Applicant information regarding safety approvals from the Fire Department will also be integrated into the intake process, and applicants will be able pay fees online.

This new online process replaces the previous process, in which applicants completed multiple forms and submitted them in person or via email to several different departments. The new intake and review process is expected to speed up review times and enhance internal coordination among City departments.

On average, the City of Oakland issues more than 500 special events permits every year, with surge periods during the summer and fall months. In 2023, approximately 550 special events permits were issued, totaling more than 8000 hours of public space activations across the City.

Oakland’s Economic & Workforce Development Department (EWDD) is dedicated to continuous improvement. As part of the City’s ongoing commitment to enhancing the customer experience, EWDD will be migrating all of its Special Activity Permits to a digital intake process over the course of 2024, including cannabis, mobile vending, cabaret, and massage permits.

What they're saying:

Mayor Sheng Thao stated: “Special events are an invaluable part of a vibrant, welcoming, and active Oakland. This is why my Administration has been working hard to streamline our permitting process and make it easier for communities to activate their neighborhoods. Our economic growth depends on an innovative and effective Economic & Workforce Development Department, and I am so grateful for Director Navarro, our permit ombudsman Robin Abad, and our amazing City staff for their commitment in improving our permitting process.”

Economic & Workforce Development Director Sofia Navarro stated: “Our team has worked diligently to identify opportunities for improvement. The consolidation of permit types and the introduction of streamlined approvals demonstrate our dedication to simplifying processes. We are excited about the positive impact this will have on our residents, businesses, and institutions."

Oakland Fire Marshall Felicia Bryant stated: “Our team is dedicated to ensuring safety with Oakland’s diverse and active range of Special Events, in a manner that is as smooth as possible for organizers. We are thrilled to integrate Fire Prevention inspections with this simplified digital application and will be looking for more opportunities to streamline the experience of those seeking to program Oakland’s public spaces."

Daniel Swafford, Executive Director, Laurel District Association, stated: "As someone who’s been doing public events in Oakland for almost 20 years, I’ve always greatly appreciated the collaborative partnerships with the City of Oakland. The one stop permit center is something Oakland event organizers have been encouraging for many years. Seeing that fully activated now proves just how responsive the City of Oakland is in addressing the needs of our diverse communities by providing streamlined, attentive, and professional support for organizations throughout the Town. I think I can speak for many event organizers and say the permit center and the team behind it is a huge success as city services are concerned, and a major benefit to the work that we are all doing to uplift Oakland‘s culture and communities.” Daniel Swafford is also the Executive Director of the Montclair Village Association and Director of Oaktoberfest in the Dimond.

Andrew Jones, General Manager of Oakland Venue Management, stated: “The new Special Event permitting process for the City of Oakland has proven to be a success. The process is now more transparent and provides opportunities for multiple departments to look at applications in a thoughtful and supportive way, while simultaneously affording planners with the information we require on the front end. We at Oakland Venue Management have seen a change, and we look forward to our continued partnership with the City of Oakland."

Oakland’s Permit Ombuds Robin Abad stated: "Incorporating technology to automate permit processes is a crucial step in our journey towards a more connected and efficient city. We are committed to leveraging innovation to provide accessible and user-friendly services for the benefit of everyone in Oakland."

About the Citywide Permitting Program

The new digital, one-stop service for Special Events is part of larger effort to improve permit operations across all departments, through the “Re-Imaging Citywide Permitting” program overseen by Citywide Permit Ombuds Robin Abad.

As part of this effort, in January 2024, the City of Oakland transitioned building permits from a manual multi-step process to a same-day, digital or “automated” process to allow applicants to submit, pay fees, and print their building permit in a single online session. This initiative captured two-thirds of City of Oakland’s building permit volume. In June 2023, the one-stop permit center at 250 Frank Ogawa Plaza expanded in-person public service hours; and in April 2024 service at the one-stop Center will expand even further, to include the lunch hour.

The City of Oakland Special Events Team has put together a quick guide for applicants here. For more information, please visit the Online Permit Center.

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Posted: March 20th, 2024 1:35 PM

Last Updated: March 20th, 2024 1:47 PM

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