Mayor London N. Breed today announced legislation to make the Shared Spaces program permanent in San Francisco. Building off the success of the past nine months of the temporary Shared Spaces program, which has allowed outdoor dining and retail, the permanent program will provide a streamlined permit process for San Francisco businesses, arts and culture organizations, and others to use curbside, sidewalk, full-street spaces and open lots. The Shared Spaces program has enabled businesses to survive the pandemic and will continue to play a major role in San Francisco’s recovery from COVID‑19. The legislation is co-sponsored by Supervisors Ahsha Safai, Rafael Mandelman, Catherine Stefani, and Matt Haney.
“Shared Spaces have brought people so much joy and an opportunity to safely enjoy their neighborhood and support local businesses during an otherwise incredibly challenging time,” said Mayor Breed. “They have also been a lifeline for business owners, providing restaurants, cafes, and stores with the space they need to offer outdoor services and keep their businesses going. Seeing people dining and enjoying themselves outdoors has been amazing, and I know this program will be an incredible asset for our city as we recover and move forward.”
The Shared Spaces program is currently tied to the declaration of a local state of emergency due to COVID-19. The legislation that Mayor Breed is introducing on Tuesday, March 16, will make the program permanent so that San Francisco residents, businesses, and organizations can continue to enjoy the outdoor spaces created over the past year. The permanent program also creates a clear path forward for new Shared Spaces and makes several programmatic adjustments to ensure equity and inclusion, promote arts, culture, and entertainment activities, and maintain accessibility and public access.
The permanent program enables businesses to apply for a Shared Spaces permit on a sidewalk, in a curbside lane, roadway, private property, or pop-up entertainment through a single easy-to-use application portal. To make this program more sustainable in the long-term, and to better support sponsors upfront with design quality, accessibility, and safety, the City will require approvals from City agencies within 30 days of businesses submitting an application, which is aligned with requirements under Proposition H passed by the voters in November 2020. The permanent Shared Spaces program includes clearer public engagement protocols, so neighboring businesses and residents have a say in how the streets and sidewalks are used in the long-term. The Shared Spaces program will defer collection of permit fees until June 2022. The program will gradually start to rebalance curb uses as transportation needs increase along with a recovering economy, by incentivizing movable parklets and promoting space sharing and turnover amongst merchants on the block. Lastly, the City will provide coordinated enforcement for Shared Spaces to make compliance easier for businesses.
For more details on the proposed Shared Spaces program, go to: sf.gov/shared-spaces-future.
“The Shared Spaces program has been a huge success for San Francisco — supporting our bars, restaurants, and cafes while activating our public spaces,” said Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). “I commend the Mayor for proposing to continue this successful program after the pandemic ends. I’m authoring parallel state legislation, Senate Bill 314, to ensure these Shared Spaces can continue under state alcohol laws.”
“One of the best-unintended results of this pandemic is the streamlining and now permanent expansion of the Shared Spaces program,” said Supervisor Ahsha Safai. “Shared Spaces will continue to give a lifeline to our small businesses as San Francisco’s economy recovers. In addition, parklets and outdoor dining add a vibrancy to our commercial corridors that should remain a part of our neighborhoods.”
“Shared Spaces has been a rare bright spot during the pandemic, providing a chance for hundreds of small businesses to keep their doors open and bringing a desperately-needed sense of community to our neighborhoods,” said Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who was an early supporter of the program as a member of the City’s Economic Recovery Task Force. “My office has worked with merchants and neighborhood groups over the past year to make Shared Spaces work in my district and across the city; this proposal incorporates many of the lessons learned to craft a permanent program that ensures that Shared Spaces will continue beyond the emergency and balances the needs of businesses, residents and other stakeholders.”
In March 2020, as San Francisco began to reopen following the initial Stay at Home Order, Mayor Breed announced the creation of the Shared Spaces program to support neighborhoods and businesses by providing additional public space to support local business activities. The Shared Spaces program was envisioned by the City’s Economic Recovery Task Force, with Mayor Breed convened, as a way to support businesses as they adapted by COVID-19 and needed to move more business operations outdoors. Throughout the summer, the Shared Spaces program enabled businesses to offer safer, outdoor commercial uses. In October 2020, following the recommendations of the Economic Recovery Task Force, Mayor Breed announced that the City would make elements of the Shared Spaces program permanent beyond the pandemic.
Since June 2020, more than 2,100 curbside and sidewalk permits have been issued by the City and businesses have credited the program with helping them stay open and survive during the pandemic. A recent survey found that of the Shared Space operators, over 50% are women-owned enterprises, 33% are immigrant-owned small businesses, and another 33% identify as minority-owned. The Shared Spaces program has prioritized equity throughout its development, by assisting businesses with grants to create and operate Shared Spaces, and also providing multi-language outreach and assistance.
In a recent survey of Shared Spaces operators, 84% of operators said that the Shared Spaces Program allowed them to reopen under public health directives; 80% said the program allowed them to avoid permanent closure; and 94% of operators said they would continue to operate an outdoor Shared Space even once allowed to operate indoors.
“Providing flexibility for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Shared Spaces program is one of the first and most successful initiatives coming from the collective work of the Economic Recovery Task Force,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu, also Co-Chair of Economic Recovery Task Force. “Many businesses have invested heavily during difficult times to stay afloat and to create unique public outdoor spaces. As we begin the path to economic recovery and reopening, it makes sense to extend the program to provide additional options for our local businesses and residents while we navigate this transition.”
“The Shared Spaces program allowed restaurants and bars to team up, which gave us a fighting chance to survive this pandemic. We want to thank Mayor Breed for her leadership in acting swiftly and decisively in creating Shared Spaces,” said Solange Darwish, co-owner of the Cove on Castro Cafe. “Our community previously endured an epidemic that took too many, too soon and too young. Now we have been through a pandemic together, and our community is still resilient and strong. Because of Mayor Breed’s vision and dedication in seeing this program through, here we are exactly one year later.”
“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. “Making this program permanent will help our small businesses recover from the global pandemic, and offers incredible potential for artistic and cultural expression. I am so excited for the future of San Francisco and the vibrant commercial corridors we will all enjoy!”
“The Shared Spaces program, which has allowed more than 1,700 restaurants and bars to seat and serve customers outside in sidewalks, parking lanes, and streets, has been a lifeline for restaurants and bars during the pandemic when indoor dining has been prohibited or greatly reduced, especially for restaurants and bars without previous outdoor seating,” said Laurie Thomas, Executive Director, Golden Gate Restaurant Association. “This program also serves to activate our neighborhoods and bring life back to our city, and will be a strong tourism draw. We strongly support the Mayor’s effort to make this program permanent and are so thankful for the Mayor driving this forward.”