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 firstname.lastname@example.org or PBOT Active Transportation Program Manager Gabe Graff at 503-823-5291.