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Restaurants Are Paying $20,000 (or More) So You Can Dine in the Street

All that plywood really adds up

Zazie’s Cole Street shared spaces platform cost about $20,000 to build
Zazie/Instagram

Before March 2020, a restaurant or bar that asked to remove a public parking place or two, replacing it with a private dining area for their business, would have been laughed out of town. Even parking changes to allow Muni to run faster were the stuff of neighborhood uprisings, and the closest the city had to streetside dining were tables placed on some sidewalks (via a permit that could run thousands) or diners who chose to bring their meals to the few public parklets scattered across town.

What a difference a pandemic makes. Today, you can’t drive down a business district street in San Francisco without running into a shared spaces platform (SSP). That’s the technical term for the dining areas restaurants have set up in former parking places, private, built-out operations that allow the struggling industry to serve diners reluctant to move indoors. (Parklets are permanent structures, city officials say, hence the SSP designation for the dining areas built in the street. People are using the terms interchangeably, but Eater SF will stick with the official terminology for now.)

Right now, all those SSPs are set to expire at midnight on December 31, 2020, as the Shared Spaces permitting program ends when the ball drops. That’s likely to change in coming weeks: San Francisco supervisors Aaron Peskin and Rafael Mandelman have proposed an extension for the program through April 15, 2022. Other city hall power players, like Sharky Laguana, the president of the SF Small Business Commission (SF SBC), are pushing to extend the program for three years — with some (as yet unspecified) aspects of it to remain in perpetuity. (You can read the SF SBC’s resolution here, and see Laguna’s petition requesting public support of the three-year extension here.)

All this to say that SSPs aren’t going anywhere any time soon, which makes this a good time to look at some of the numbers behind this new, suddenly ubiquitous feature of San Francisco’s streets.

  • 328: The number of permits issued for SSPs in parking lanes
  • 75: The number of permanent, public parklets that stood in the city prior to the pandemic
  • $90,000: The cost of the Hayes Valley public parklet constructed by Souvla in 2019
  • $5,000: The cost for the SSP outside the Richmond District’s Balboa Theater, which is used for movie screenings on Fridays and Saturdays, then shared with area restaurants during the week
  • $12,000: The cost of the SSP constructed by Divisadero dive bar the Page
  • (Over) $15,000: The cost, each, for the SSPs constructed outside the Dorian and Palm House
  • $20,000: The cost for the SSP outside Cole Valley brunch destination Zazie

Facts and figures are from the SFMTA’s Shared Spaces page, the SF Gate’s “How parklets have changed the face of SF for the better,” the SF Chronicle’s “SF parklet proliferation raises concerns about restaurants’ use of public space,” and the SF Chronicle’s “S.F. parklets a lifeline for restaurants, but raise concerns for disability advocates

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