Street restaurants, outdoor parklets, and even entire road closures could become permanent fixtures on the streets of San Francisco.

Mayor London Breed announced on Friday legislation aimed at paving the way for the permanence of Shared Spaces, the program that emerged from the pandemic that allows small businesses to get royalty-free, expedited authorization to use elements of public space such as Apply for sidewalks and parking spaces and curbs for outdoor operation.

“Shared Spaces have brought so much joy and opportunity for people to safely enjoy their neighborhoods and support local businesses in an otherwise incredibly challenging time,” Breed said in a statement. “They have also been a lifeline for business owners, providing restaurants, cafes and shops with the space they need to provide outdoor services and keep their businesses going.”

The program was popular with many business owners.

As of March 1, 2,117 permits for curbs and sidewalks had been approved. Based on a survey of over 100 restaurants from July to September 2020, the program generated additional taxable revenue of $ 82,000 per business compared to other restaurants without active approval.

Shared Spaces was created as a temporary contingency program that will expire on June 30, 2021. It would move to a permit that The City offers on a permanent basis under the proposed legislation. Businesses can apply for permits on a sidewalk, curbside road, street, privately owned, or in pop-up conversation through a single application portal.

The city authorities must respond to the request within 30 days. This is a provision of Proposal H that was passed by voters in November to streamline the process of starting a new business. She would also waive all annual fees until June 2022, the cost of which has not yet been disclosed.

“Shared Spaces is a once in a lifetime opportunity to make San Francisco even more magical and full of wonder,” said Sharky Laguana, president of the San Francisco Small Business Commission, who also advocated Prop. H’s permanent program will help our small businesses stand out recovering from the global pandemic, and offers incredible potential for artistic and cultural expression. “

The rise of outdoor eating is a new phenomenon in San Francisco, a city known for its pleasant, albeit cool, weather but also notorious prior to the pandemic for its arduous approval processes and slow pace of change.

But Shared Spaces seems to have helped small business owners survive. Around 84 percent of operators said the program allowed them to reopen during the public health emergency. 80 percent said it allows them to avoid permanent closure; and 94 percent said they would keep their outdoor dining facility even if indoor operations resumed.

Proponents say that opening up the curb, sidewalk, and street for alfresco dining and other business activities not only helped the vendors but also created a new way to create community, reinvigorate the neighborhood business corridors, and Promote the collective psychological and emotional well-being of the Franciscans during this period of the otherwise isolating pandemic.

“This program also serves to energize our neighborhoods and bring our city back to life, and will have a strong tourist attraction,” Laurie Thomas, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said in a statement.

While the popular narrative surrounding Shared Spaces has been largely positive about its nine– –Lifespan of the month has also caused some dismay among those who wanted to see more enforcement and regulation around the platforms and road closures that seemingly pop up overnight.

These concerns are not trivial, especially if the program will be available over the long term.

This includes enforcing security policies designed to protect emergency access. maintaining accessible passageways for people with reduced mobility; the loss of parking spaces – and the sizeable revenue generated for the city’s beleaguered transit agency – combined with the loss of community contributions; the lack of equity with which entrepreneurs can take advantage of the program; and whether these spaces are actually really “divided” when they constitute part of the public space that is given over to private companies.

The legislation proposed by Breed aims to address some of these problems.

It stipulates that all shared spaces must be open to the public if they are not used for commercial purposes and that seating is available at all times, including opening times. prioritizes city resources for neighborhoods hardest hit by historical differences to help business owners start an outdoor operation; and institutes increased the requirements for the public announcement, the details of which have not yet been published.

Not to be forgotten is who is responsible for overseeing this program, which has so far been run by a patchwork of city authorities like the Planning Department, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Department and the Public Works Department, making it a complicated and inconsistent process, even for that well-meaning business owners unsure how to comply with health and safety guidelines.

The legislature seems to have a plan for this, at least one on paper: it creates a “uniform health certificate” that clearly spells out health and safety guidelines and gives enforcement powers to an authority.

Finally, many have mentioned that while using the curb for outdoor commercial activities is a boon to business during the pandemic, it could hinder transit, Vision Zero, infrastructure and other priorities of the city once the recovery begins and more people travel outside of their homes and neighborhoods.

With this proposal, the city would encourage moving parklets to permanent alternatives and encourage the division of outdoor space between vendors on a single block in order to “gradually begin to rebalance the curb”.

How this is planned has not been disclosed.

The legislation will be presented at the upcoming Supervisory Board meeting on March 16. The Board has already taken a decision to support the creation of a permanent version of the Common Spaces Initiative, but has made it clear that specific provisions are foreseen for long-term treatment – long-term equity, accessibility and enforcement concerns.

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