A program to allow San Francisco businesses to operate in outdoor public spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic while indoor businesses remained closed will be extended indefinitely, Mayor London Breed announced Friday.
The Shared Spaces program provided a lifeline to restaurants and retail businesses during the pandemic, and thanks to its success, the program is here to stay.
In addition to making the program permanent, Mayor London Breed said the program will also have a streamlined permit process extended to not just restaurants and retail shops, but to arts and cultural organizations as well.
According to the mayor, the newly permanent Shared Spaces program will play a key role in helping businesses recover from the pandemic. "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," Breed said in a statement.
"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."
To continue the program, Breed plans on introducing legislation to make it permanent at this Tuesday's upcoming Board of Supervisors meeting. Breed's legislation has been cosponsored by supervisors Ahsha Safai, Matt Haney, Catherine Stefani and Rafael Mandelman.
"One of the best unintended results of this pandemic is the streamlining and now permanent expansion of the Shared Spaces program," Safai said. "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."
Since June 2020, when the program first began, more than 2,100 permits for curbside and sidewalk use have been issued by the city to businesses. According to a recent survey cited by the Mayor's office, 80 percent of businesses with a Shared Spaces permit credited the program with helping them avoid permanent closure during the pandemic.
Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, a proponent of making Shared Spaces permanent, introduced Senate Bill 314 last month, which seeks to give restaurants, bars and music venues more flexibility to permanently operate and serve alcohol in Shared Spaces.