SF wants to make outdoor dining 'parklets' permanent fixtures

Outside dining spaces have transformed cities around the Bay Area, and now San Francisco leaders are working to make that change permanent. 

Efforts in the city and at the state level are underway. Businesses around the Bay and in San Francisco say outdoor dining platforms are a lifeline.

No one could have predicted how the pandemic would reshape San Francisco's sidewalks. Platforms for outdoor dining now line the city's commercial corridors. 

"All of a sudden we have parklets everywhere," said Mayor London Breed. "We have people out and about, and dining and enjoying each other, and of course staying safe because we are still in this pandemic."

Breed is co-sponsoring new legislation along with four San Francisco supervisors to make the platforms a permanent fixture. 

"We're going to have multiple options, we're going to have parklets, we're going to have commercial space, we're going to have a hybrid of in-between," said Supervisor Ahsha Safaí. "We're going to make the fees accessible to people, and then the ongoing costs will be something that will be manageable."

More than 2,100 permits for the curbside platforms have already been issued, and businesses like The Cove in the city's Castro District said the parklets have been a game-changer. The city said 94% of businesses want to keep the dining and drinking platforms. 

"This program allowed restaurants and bars to team up, which gave us a fighting chance to survive this pandemic," said Solange Darwish from The Cove.

The platforms aren't just in San Francisco, outdoor dining setups have changed commercial corridors in cities around the Bay and up and down the state.

Senator Scott Wiener penned Senate Bill 314, aimed at streamlining liquor license requirements and allowing the shared spaces to continue state-wide. 

"Just to make it easier for bars in particular to share space, and to be able to have that kind of efficiencies that way," said Wiener. "To make life easier for live music venues and other ways of just supporting our hospitality sector."

That senate bill is currently in committee.

City legislation to make the platforms more permanent will be introduced next Tuesday.