SF Outdoor Event Planning & Permitting Guide

Help for event organizers navigating the rules, permit processes, and agencies that affect outdoor events.

The Guide helps event organizers:

  • follow rules
  • get permits
  • work with government agencies
  • learn best practices
  • comply with laws 
  • have safe events
  • keep outdoor events sustainable

The San Francisco Entertainment Commission produced the Guide.


Part 1: Getting started

The SF Outdoor Event Planning & Permitting Guide assists event organizers with navigating the rules, permit processes, and agencies that affect outdoor events, and shares best practices to help them achieve successful outcomes.

San Francisco has a world renowned legacy of hosting a wide range of outdoor events that celebrate its rich history and its diverse and dynamic communities.

So you want to put on an outdoor special event in San Francisco? Terrific!

In the early planning stages, identify the permits, approvals, and costs that are associated with your event.

Part 2: Applying for a permit

The permit process begins when you submit a permit application to a City department.

You must submit all required supporting documents with your application. The City and County of San Francisco does not have to work on incomplete permit applications. If your application is not complete, the City will not approve or deny it, and you cannot appeal.

It is very important to provide all the information we request as you apply. If you don't know if your application is complete, contact the City department.

Your permit application process is not complete until you receive written final approval.

What a parade is, applying for a permit, and street cleanup.

If you are planning on organizing a march or rally, notify the Special Event Sergeant at the Local Police District Station where the event begins.

From 6 months before to after the event.

A reference of possible or common permits, licenses, or additional approvals that may be required for an outdoor special event. Not all events will require all of these permits, licenses, or approvals.

Contact information may change.

Part 3: Operations and infrastructure

The Event Sponsor has the responsibility to ensure a safe and secure environment for the event.

Fire code requires the safe installation and use of temporary structures at special events.

If you are expecting 2,500 or more attendees, or if you are planning an athletic or water-based event, you are required by the City and County of San Francisco to have a pre-approved emergency medical plan for your event.

The Event Sponsor is required to plan for the safe arrival and departure of event attendees, participants, and vendors.

All public property, including streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas within the area for which such permission is granted, shall be kept clean and free from trash and debris at all times during the period of such temporary use or occupancy.

As the Event Sponsor, you are required to do meaningful outreach in advance to any neighbors, businesses, and community organizations affected by the event.

Any individual or organization (event sponsor) producing an event is required to obtain a Temporary Event Health Permit from the SF Department of Public Health when they are offering food and/or beverage to the public.

As the Event Sponsor, you and your organization are legally liable for any consumption or possession of alcohol by a person under the age of 21 at your event.

These licenses authorize the temporary sales of liquor for consumption on the premises at a special event.

The Event Sponsor must develop a plan that limits the impact of event-generated amplified sound on the surrounding neighborhood.

Part 4: Appendix

An optional planning tool designed to:

  • Help event producers and City employees have a clear mutual understanding of the proposed plans for an outdoor event.
  • Be a place to start gathering information and exploring feasibility of doing the event (safety, potential costs, timing of approval process). The producer and City employee can use this tool during their preapplication consultations.
  • Empower event producers and City regulators with the knowledge to produce and manage safer, higher quality, and more successful events.

 Last updated 7-1-19

Glossary for this guide

If you missed the permit application deadline, refer to the rules regarding late applications.

Examples, templates, etc.

Contact information is subject to change.

Full guide

Download the complete Guide.


This is provided for informational purposes only.  It may not describe all current requirements, actions, permits, or fees that may be required by each affected City department. You should consult, in advance of your event, with all City departments that may have jurisdiction over any part of your event to confirm that you are aware of all current requirements and guidelines for your event. Such departments may include the SFMTA, SF Recreation & Park Department, SF Police Department, SF Fire Department, SF Department of Public Health, Port of San Francisco, SF Entertainment Commission, SF Public Works, or others. There may be events not covered by this Guide. If you are not sure whether your event is covered by this Guide, or which departments may have jurisdiction over your event, please call the SF Entertainment Commission at 628-652-6030 or contact the relevant land authority for the location of the event. All City policies, processes, fees and rates referenced herein are subject to change without notice.