Bars, restaurants, and other businesses will have to pay permit fees for their “shared spaces” parklets starting April 1, but Supervisor Ahsha Safai wants to eliminate that few-thousand dollar fee before it goes into effect.
Making “shared spaces” parklets permanent has been an ongoing San Francisco legislative effort for close to two years now, and the legislation itself has already kicked in. Kind of. There are now permit fees involved on top of the carpentry, materials, and maintenance costs, and as the permit system gets ready to take effect April 1. most businesses apparently intend to keep their shared spaces.
But less than three weeks before the paid permit system is set to kick in, the Chronicle reports that District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai is proposing to waive many permit fees for shared spaces parklets.
“I’m asking for legislation to waive the fees for the first year of shared spaces,” Safai said when introducing the proposal at last Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “This would not eliminate the fees going forward, it would just eliminate the fees in the first year. And anyone who has paid those fees already, we would rebate those fees.”
(The Chronicle’s report notes that as of today, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association says that no businesses have been charged the fees yet, and these would not have been due until April 1.)
The new Shared Spaces program, established in 2021, charges a one-time $3,000 fee for a single parking-space permit, and $1,500 additional for a second parking space. On top of that there's a $2,000 annual license fee per parking space, but it's $1,000 per space for restaurants with gross receipts under $2 million.
Under Safai's proposed legislation, that one-time $3,000 fee would be waived, and the gross-receipts threshold would rise to $2.5 million.
When he introduced the proposal, Safai said that Supervisor Catherine Stefani was likely onboard. The Chronicle’s article notes that Safai has "had conversations with supervisors Joel Engardio, Rafael Mandelman and Matt Dorsey on the subject.” So if those four supervisor plus Safai are all yes votes, that’s five supervisors, and quite close to the six-vote threshold this legislation would require to pass.
But with April 1 now just 17 days away, it seems time might be the bigger challenge than winning more board votes.
It should be noted that when the original legislation was crafted, everyone thought things would all be back to normal by June 2021 and restaurants would have nearly two years of normal business under their belts by the time this fee schedule took effect. It seems highly likely that many parklets will disappear when the fees take effect, and Safai says he's hoping to avoid that because they "add to the vibrancy of our city and the livability of our city."
Per the Chronicle and OpenTable data, while much of the country saw around a 150% uptick in the number of outdoor seats available at restaurants in the last three years, San Francisco saw a nearly 300% uptick, indicating that many restaurants are now going to be subject to the Shared Spaces rules if they choose to keep that new seating.
Image: @ArtePorLola1 via Twitter