After a Board of Supervisors subcommittee recommended a two-week delay to fine-tune parklet legislation, Breed went nuclear saying they wanted to “butcher my legislation” and threatened to override them with a ballot measure.
It seemed inoffensive and agreeable enough in March when Mayor Breed proposed to extend the popular Shared Spaces program to effectively make parklets permanent. After all, who doesn’t love the parklets? So as legislation goes in this town, the plan was written up into a proposed law, and went before a Board of Supervisors subcommittee — in this case, Land Use and Transportation Committee, which met Monday.
That committee supported the idea, but asked for a two-week extension to further examine ADA accessibility issues and get more input from community stakeholders. Breed’s response seems perhaps disproportionate.
Mayor Breed says she's battling the supervisors to make outdoor dining parklets permanent.— Trisha Thadani (@TrishaThadani) May 26, 2021
She said they are trying to "butcher my legislation and water it down." She's threatening to bring it to voters if they "continue down that path.” https://t.co/A4S2NnKFC7 @SFjkdineen
“The board has messed with the wrong mayor,” she fumed at a Tuesday press conference, which was ostensibly about summer events to reactivate downtown. “When they tried to butcher my legislation and water it down and make it even more difficult and complicated so now businesses continue to struggle and have difficulty doing business in San Francisco, that’s when I take a different sort of action.”
She also appeared to be reacting to separate legislation tabled by this same committee that relates to the Board of Appeals process, that was recently covered by Chronicle columnist Heather Knight.
Breed said she might make her permanent Shared Spaces a ballot measure this fall “if they want to continue down that path,” though it seems likely all of this can be ironed out prior to then.
As the Examiner notes, the COVID-era Shared Spaces program as we currently know it is slated to sunset at the end of this year. For small businesses who’ve dumped a ton of money into these parklets — only to see them shut down when cases surged late last year — there is a lot of uncertainty on whether to invest in these outdoor structures.
“It costs thousands of dollars, that we already don’t have, to build out a parklet,” Blackbird and The Detour owner Tiffany Chung told the Chronicle. “We are reluctant to invest money if the shared spaces are not here to stay.”
These things were considered a temporary measure, a lifeline to keep businesses open and people employed when public health measures rightfully dictated that people should not be congregating indoors. But there are a number of temporary COVID measures that, on second look, would work well permanently. (Hello, outdoor drinking!)
Parklets have been around in this city since years before the pandemic, and were originally approved in 2010, under old rules that placed the burden of permits and costs onto the business owner. There are about 60 of these parklets created under the old system, according to SF Public Works, and these have pretty strict rules about allowing non-customers equal access.
But there are now about 2,300 of the new “pandemic parklets,” which were rightfully rushed through with little consideration of unintended consequences, mainly to just make sure small businesses could stay open with some degree of revenue. These are required to provide at least one seat to the public and non-paying customers, but we cannot imagine that rule has ever been enforced.
Senior and disability community concerns are important and must be heard as well to help make our shared spaces program permanent.— Ahsha Safai 安世輝 (@Ahsha_Safai) May 25, 2021
Businesses with the old-style public parklets are probably not going to complain about the sunk cost into their prior projects, most businesses just want to survive the pandemic in one piece. The concerns are more likely to come from accessibility advocates (and drivers bitching about parking spaces). And San Francisco is not the only city working through these issues. But we might be the only city where these issues are fodder for a public war between the mayor and the board of supervisors.
Image: Joe Kukura, SFist