San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced proposed legislation Friday that will extend indefinitely the popular Shared Spaces program, allowing bars and restaurants across the city the keep the outdoor parklet spaces they've built and for new ones to be permitted as well.
"They add a phenomenal vibrancy to our commercial corridors,” said Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, speaking to the Chronicle about the parklets and patios. "It’s something that’s very San Franciscan. I think this is going to be one of the more positive unintended consequences of the pandemic."
The current Shared Spaces program had already been extended once, but was set to expire in June. With the new legislation, Breed and co-sponsors Safai and Supervisor Rafael Mandelman hope to bring a bit more order (and bureaucracy) to the chaos, while enabling businesses to hold on to the outdoor seating they've spent money and effort to construct.
The new ordinance would also give some businesses a chance to improve their slipshod parklets and make them something worth keeping.
"We’re going to provide the opportunity for some of the spaces that were done hastily to get up to code," Safai tells the Chronicle.
Disability rights advocates have complained about the Shared Spaces program from the beginning, suggesting that it makes sidewalks more difficult to navigate for those in wheelchairs, and that it removes too many parking spaces.
The proposed legislation would give all the city's 2,000+ businesses with new parklets and patios until December 31 to submit new permit applications for their constructions — and to prove that they are safe and ADA-compliant.
Applications for new parklets would begin being taken in June — but unlike the rapid response these have gotten during the pandemic to date, the city will take 30 days to approve new ones. And starting in a year (June 2022), there will be permit fees.
Going forward, this new version of San Francisco with abundant outdoor eating and drinking will be amazing to see when the sun is out, as the pandemic subsides, and people are able to be in crowded places again.
Top image: thepagebar_sf/Instagram