The free ride is over for San Francisco parklets, but now that businesses must pay $2,000 a year for each parking space their parklet occupies, nearly 80% of current parklet owners are still opting to keep them.
Early last year I was chatting with a San Francisco bar owner, and I complimented him on the sweet parklets his venue had put up. I asked if he would keep them. Without missing a beat, he said, “I’ll keep them there until the city starts making me pay for them.”
We are now to where the city is making you pay for them. As the Chronicle noted in their 2023 public spaces preview, “San Francisco was an early adapter, waiving permitting rules to allow businesses to turn parking spaces into parklets where customers could drink and dine in naturally ventilated settings.” But that waiving of permits ended when the permanent “shared spaces” legislation kicked in, and businesses now need a paid permit for parklets.
Per the SFMTA, the application deadline was January 15, and “once approved, [permits] will go into effect on April 1, 2023. And the Chronicle reports that most SF businesses are keeping them. “As of midday Tuesday, the city received 702 parklet applications for the new legislated Shared Spaces program,” according to the Chronicle. “Of these applications, 592 are renewals from the previous pandemic parklet program, while the rest are new applications from businesses that do not already have a parklet.”
That report also notes that there were 760 applications in the previous phase. So if 592 parklet permit holders were renewing, that means just under 80% of parklet permit holders are retaining their parklets now that their permits cost money.
Parklets can now only occupy a maximum of two parking spaces, and the permits come at a cost. Per the Chronicle, “Going forward, businesses looking for a commercial parklet annual license will have to pay $2,000 per parking space occupied. One-time permits for fixed commercial parklets for the first parking space cost $3,000, and $1,500 for the second space. Businesses with fewer than $2 million in gross receipts receive a half-fee waiver.”
For some businesses with large parklets, complying with the two-parking-space rule is far more expensive than the permit. Consider North Beach’s Red Window, which has six parklet spaces, and now must remove four. Owner Elmer Mejicanos tells the Chronicle, “We're, roughly, going to spend about $20,000 just taking down the remainder of the parklets, except for the two that we’re allowed, and even those are going to be changed.”
And at Lazy Bear in the Mission, recurring graffiti and vandalism forced them to just give up the ghost on their parklets. “It got to the point where the parklets became an existential crisis,” chef-owner David Barzelay tells the Chronicle.
The couple-thousand-dollar permit fees are probably nothing compared to the upkeep required for a parklet. Yet if you don’t do the upkeep, shop owners say the ill-maintained parklets tend to become even bigger magnets for graffiti and vandalism. But now that the permits cost money, it seems most current parklet owners are willing to pay for those permits, and the upkeep and maintenance fees.
Image: @berkie1 via Twitter