Festivals, charity walks and runs, and other public events are part of what makes Santa Barbara a vibrant, fun, connected community. On this page, you'll find everything you need to get started with planning and permitting your special event.
The permitting process in five easy steps!
The Special Event permit application process has a number of steps that must be completed before approval and event setup. During the process, City staff is available to answer questions and provide assistance as necessary to ensure the success of your event and the safety of all attendees.
Step 1 Review This Site and the Special Event Planning Guide
This site and the Special Event Planning Guide are designed to provide the necessary information to assist you in planning your event. Here you can view potential locations and familiarize yourself with the standard requirements and rules that apply to all Special Events hosted within the City of Santa Barbara.
Step 2 Submit a Special Event Inquiry, Special Event Application, or First-Amendment Event Notification
If this is your first time organizing a Special Event in the City of Santa Barbara, you must first submit a Special Event Inquiry Form. The Special Event Coordinator will then assist you in determining a suitable location and date for the event. If available, a 30-day hold may be placed on the dates and location while the organizer prepares their application.
Once you have tentatively confirmed the event location and dates with the Special Event Coordinator, you may submit a Special Event Application. Special Event Applications may be submitted up to one year in advance, but no later than 90 days prior to the event date (exceptions may be made if City resources allow), except as provided elsewhere in these guidelines. Earlier applications deadlines, not to exceed 300 days prior to the event, may be required due to the anticipated size of the event, the occurrence of the event with other related events, or the need to coordinate and plan City resources for the event or related events, including events expecting more than 2,500 attendees, street or lane closures, events occurring at the waterfront, events involving pyrotechnics or fireworks, sporting tournaments, and other events.
First-time events expecting more than 2,500 attendees are asked to initiate the inquiry process 10-12 months in advance of the proposed event date. These submission timelines are calculated based on the typical amount of time required for event organizers to finalize event details, review proposed event logistics with the Special Event Coordinator, and acquire the necessary permits from various city, county, state and federal agencies.
First Amendment Events are often organized in response to political or community-based news or actions giving organizers a very short time-window to plan their event. The City requests that all First Amendment Event organizers submit a First Amendment Event Notification as soon as possible in order to confirm availability of the preferred location and give the City sufficient time to organize resources to support the event. In some cases, the organizer may also be required to submit a Special Event Application due to the scope of the event set-up and/or the inclusion of certain event elements, such as the erection of a stage or the closure of a street. The organizer will be notified by the Special Event Coordinator when this is necessary. An application for a Special Event Permit, when a permit is required for a First Amendment Event under these guidelines, shall be submitted no later than 48 hours prior to the event unless the circumstance which gave rise to the permit application did not reasonably allow the event participants or sponsors to file an application within the time prescribed by these guidelines.
The City will not complete review of the applicant’s submittal until the application is complete. Submittal of an application does not guarantee the date and location, an automatic approval of your event, or an approval of all proposed activities. Submittal of an application does not grant you a permit or confirmation to conduct your planned event. All applications are subject to review and all proposed activities and events are subject to approval by the City.
Returning Special Events in good standing with the City of Santa Barbara may hold event dates for up to two years in advance without submitting an application. Future event dates will not automatically be held without a request in writing from a Returning Event Organizer.
Step 3 Review of Application by Special Event Coordinator
Once received, the Special Events Coordinator will review the application to determine the permit fees and charges that will apply for use of the event space. The application is also used to determine the additional permits and compliance items that may be required by other city, county, state and federal agencies. These fees and charges and additional requirements are based on the scope of your event as described in the application.
Visit the appropriate sections of the Special Event Planning Guide to view descriptions of the additional permits and compliance items that may be required for your event. Please be advised that there may be additional charges for these items.
Step 4 Conditional Permit Approval
Once the application review is completed, you will receive a Conditional Special Event Permit listing the total amount of fees due to the Parks and Recreation Department, a corresponding payment schedule, and the general rules that apply to events held on City property. Payment in full is typically due a minimum of 30 days prior to your first rental day.
You will also receive a checklist detailing the additional permits and compliance items required for the event from various city, county, state and federal agencies. For permits issued by City departments, you will be able to submit an application and track the status of these permits online. Contact information and instructions will be provided on how to apply for permits required from agencies outside of the City’s jurisdiction. These additional requirements are typically due a minimum of seven (7) days prior to your first rental day.
Should any event elements change after the Conditional Special Event Permit has been issued, you are required to notify the Special Events Coordinator. Should these changes alter the requirements for the event, the Conditional Special Event Permit and Compliance Item Checklist will be updated and re-issued.
Issuance of a Denial Letter
A Denial Letter indicates that your application is being denied, with reason(s) for denial included in the letter. Some potential denial reasons are listed in the Guide under Permit Denial, Revocation, and Appeal Procedure.
Step 5 Permit Approved!
The Special Event or First Amendment Permit will be officially approved once the following tasks are completed:
- All fees and charges due to the City of Santa Barbara are paid.
- The supplemental requirements listed on the accompanying “Permit and Compliance Item Checklist” are provided to and approved by the Special Event Coordinator.
- The applicant has signed a copy of the Special Event Permit.
Once these tasks are completed, the Special Event Coordinator will send you a countersigned version of the Special Event Permit, which will serve as your approved permit. Please plan to keep a copy of this document at the event location.
The Special Event Planning Guide has been developed as a reference tool to provide event organizers with information essential to hosting public events in the City of Santa Barbara. This guide contains essential information regarding rules, regulations and additional permitting requirements that vary depending on the elements and activities that will be incorporated into the event.
While it is recommended that event organizers review the entire Special Event Planning Guide, links to the most commonly referenced topics can be found below as separate PDF files:
Additional permits and compliance items issued by other City departments or County, State and Federal agencies may be required as a condition to obtain a Special Event Permit from the City of Santa Barbara. The proposed event location, infrastructure, size and elements determine these additional requirements. In most cases these additional requirements have an associated cost. Please review the Planning Guide section titled “Special Event Permit and Compliance Items” for more information.
City of Santa Barbara
Community Development Department
Building and Safety
Community Development Counter
Permit Types: Building Permits, Temporary Power Permits, Temporary Wiring and Lighting Permits
Planning and Zoning
Community Development Counter
Permit Types: Coastal Exemptions, Temporary Signage Standards
Business License Office
Permit Types: One-Day Vendor Licenses, City of Santa Barbara Business Licenses
Fire Prevention Bureau
Permit Types: Open Flame Permits, Tent and Canopy Permits, Public Assembly Permits, Trade Show and Carnival Permits
Parks and Recreation Department
Special Event Coordinator
Permit Types: Special Event Permits
Onalisa Hoodes, Police Services Coordinator
Permit Types: Special Event Permits for Events Occurring in the Public Right of Way, Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Endorsements, Officer Requests
Public Works Department
Public Works Counter
Permit Types: Parking Restriction Waivers, Sidewalk Merchandising, Street, Path, and Sidewalk Closures
Sustainability & Resilience Department
Permit Types: Litter-Free Permits, Zero Waste Event Resources
Waterfront Parking Services
Permit Types: Parking Reservations in Waterfront Parking Lots
County of Santa Barbara
Public Health Department
Environmental Health Service
Permit Types: Temporary Food Facility Permits, Mobile Food Facility Permits