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Portland Bureau of Transportation

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New proposed guidelines for Street Seats


Photos of Street Seats

In 2012, Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) experimented with a new program, termed Street Seats, to permit businesses to build a temporary platform in the on-street parking lane. Based on similar programs in San Francisco and New York City, the Street Seats program allows sponsoring businesses to utilize these platforms to add additional outdoor seating along the street. The goal of the program is to allow Portlanders to enjoy a meal or a beverage outdoors, while enhancing street vitality and supporting local business.

PBOT conducted an evaluation to garner feedback on the pilot from businesses, neighborhood associations, and community members. Nearly 100 people provided feedback. Responses to the program were generally positive: 90% of businesses believed that the Street Seats program would benefit neighborhood businesses, and 80% of community members surveyed felt that Street Seats positively impacted their street’s vitality.

PBOT also received concerns regarding loss of parking, the safety of the platforms, and a private enterprise’s exclusive use of the public right of way.  In addition, some perceived the platforms to be aesthetically displeasing or of poor construction quality.

Public concerns and suggested improvements helped PBOT to propose guidelines that to build on the pilot’s success:

  • A clear public process: PBOT will notify relevant neighborhood and business associations of pending eligible applications. The pilot’s rolling application process will be replaced with limited application windows. The 2013 application deadline will be on May 1st. This also allows PBOT to evaluate applications together and identify any potential conflicts between applicants.
  • A public parklet option: Similar to San Francisco, entities (business, church, neighborhood association, non-profit, etc) not interested in providing table service or serving alcohol may apply to use the platform to create public, open space. Permit fees for this option will be limited to the $500 application fee.
  • Maintaining existing on-street parking levels in the Central Business District: In response to concerns expressed by the Downtown Retail Council, Street Seats are currently not being accepted for the area from W Burnside St.  to SW Harrison St., SW 10th Ave. to SW 2nd Ave.
  • Structural and design enhancements: To increase safety, visibility, and to preserve neighborhood aesthetics, PBOT proposed guidelines add  several new design provisions into the pilot program’s design guidelines:
    • Wheel stops, along with planters or weighted bollards will be required on either end of the installation;
    • Platforms must provide a continuous barrier along the street-facing perimeter while maintaining clear visual sightlines to the street; and
    • Durable materials capable of withstanding year-round use will be required.


Eligible applicants not choosing the public parklet option will pay the $500 permit fee plus $105 per linear foot of right of way. This would result in an annual fee of $2,600 for 20ft platform ($500 + $105x20ft). If the platform is to be located in a metered parking space, the applicant will be responsible for lost meter revenue. Businesses will also be responsible for securing a Café Seating permit  if they do not already hold one.

Please provide comments on the proposed Street Seat Guidelines by April 1 to or PBOT Active Transportation Program Manager Gabe Graff at 503-823-5291.


Add a Comment



March 25, 2013 at 10:04 AM

Concern: "Private enterprise’s exclusive use of the PUBLIC right of way.'


"A clear public process" does not in any way answer that concern.

So who's paying you to do this?


Stephen Hoyt-McBeth

March 28, 2013 at 3:38 PM

Ann, thank you for your comment. The City allows many exclusive uses in the public right of way that are deemed as providing a public benefit even though a portion of that benefit is directed toward a private entity. For example, PBOT allows restaurants to have cafe seating on the public sidewalk, businesses may request a loading zone designation for a parking space on the public street near their storefront, hotels may request valet zones in public parking zones, and food purveyors can request a permit to sell food on a sidewalk or public park.

The fee for Street Seats is based on a cost recovery formula that includes the staff time of City employees to process the request.

If you have further comments or questions, I encourage you to contact Program Manager Gabe Graff: 503-823-5291,

Thank you again for your comments.


Mary Ann

March 29, 2013 at 8:07 AM

The safety enhancements and the addition of the parklet option are great additions to this program. Thanks.

By the way, private enterprises regularly use, abuse and litter the public right of way without the city's or the public's permission through the use and placement of newsracks.


Steve Hoyt-McBeth (PBOT)

April 4, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Hi Mary Ann,

Thank you for your comment and sorry for the delay in responding. There are some constitutional issues that limit the City's ability to regulate the placement of news racks (aka Publication Boxes) in the public right of way.

PBOT is conducting a pilot project near Pioneer Square where the stands are co-located in fixed boxes. Here's a link to a status report on the pilot:

If you want more information, you can contact Richard Eisenhauer in our Right of Way group:


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