Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

PBOT launches ‘Street Seats’ program

Posted by on August 14th, 2012 at 9:41 am

Screen grab from PBOT website.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) has launched a pilot program that will allow business owners to convert on-street parking spots into seating areas. The program, dubbed “Street Seats”, is PBOT’s spin on the idea of converting parking spots to mini-parks a.k.a. parklets. Parklets roared to popularity when they were first introduced by the City of San Francisco in February 2010. By August of that same year, a grassroots efforts bloomed to bring them to Portland, but the City never gave them the official stamp of approval until now.

PBOT has not made an official announcement (I heard about it via the Portland Transport blog and its publisher Chris Smith found about it via a Tweet from Sustainability at Work), but they have published a page on their website about it.

PBOT bills the program as “A pilot program to bring more outdoor seating to Portland streets.” Here’s more on their thinking behind Street Seats:

What is ‘Street Seats?’

Street Seats is a pilot program that allows the Portland Bureau of Transportation to permit businesses to build a temporary platform in the on-street parking lane. The platform is the same height as the curb and extends the sidewalk space in order to add additional outdoor seating along the street.

Similar programs in San Francisco and New York City have proven successful and gotten Portlanders asking whether the same success can happen here. This summer, the pilot program will work with local restaurants to try our own version, which will be called “Street Seats.”

In launching this program, PBOT states on their website that the public right-of-way isn’t just about moving people and goods, but that it’s “a public space for gathering and meeting”.

If a business is interested in the program, they can apply via the online application form. PBOT will award 15 locations during the pilot program, which will end on December 31, 2012. During this trial period, applicants will be asked pay for all the materials and costs associated with construction of the seating area platform. They will also need to pay for a $459 encroachment permit, which might come with additional costs such as compensation for lost parking meter revenue, street sign changes, and so on (each location will be different).

Street Seats platform requires a $459 encroachment permit and may include additional costs, such as compensation for lost parking meter revenue, a Café Seating permit and charges for street sign changes. Contact transportation staff for more accurate cost estimates based on a specific location. (PBOT points out that after the pilot period, the costs are likely to change.)

Interestingly, PBOT has launched this program without any formal public announcement. PBOT spokesman Dan Anderson, who I contacted via email this morning, said they made the website live on Friday. “No formal announcement. Similar programs have been popular in other dynamic cities, and Portlanders have asked us to permit street seats here. So we’re running the pilot program to see if it’s a success.”

Learn more about the program at the Street Seats website.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

43
Leave a Reply

avatar
15 Comment threads
28 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
22 Comment authors
DaveMichael M.bicycle rideri ride my bikeRebecca Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
peejay
Guest
peejay

Yes, lots of these, please!

But what I don’t like at all is the idea that the business has to compensate the city for lost parking revenue. Does the city compensate ME for lost access to the streets because so much of our public rights of way are tied up in personal property storage?

SilkySlim
Guest

Sounds like a no-brainer for any restaurant that has overflowing tables! Would you rather have 3-4 more tables turn over an hour, or the slight possibility that the person who parked in front of your door (blocking the view!) might make it in for a meal?

Alex Reed
Guest
Alex Reed

Yay, this sounds awesome! This and 20 mph zones are two recent transportation innovations that I’ve wishes PBOT would copy, and here they are! Now all we need are some more real NYC-style cycle tracks 🙂

The $460 fee plus lost meter revenue seems a little excessive to me, but hey. I suppose that $460 probably looks like chump change to restaurants that want more seating.

Robert Ping
Guest
Robert Ping

Awesome! This treatment makes such a big difference for businesses and their patrons, pedestrians, neighborhood beauty and livability; and I’ll bet it also has a traffic calming effect. PBOT or COP, or even PSU, I hope you can do some tracking of the economic benefits of this, especially to counter what will surely be negative reactions from those (read: infomedia) who will argue that the lost car parking will affect business.

People Parking trumps Car Parking!

Robert Ping
Guest
Robert Ping

I meant (read: infotainment)

Amy
Guest
Amy

In San Francisco these parklets are supposed to be public spaces, but they are de facto extensions of whatever business they happen to be in front of (usually restaurants/cafes).

If the seating is meant for restaurant use then it seems fair for the restaurant to pay for it.

Dave
Guest

It seems like, if they wanted a fair trial run, they would make a big stink about it to make sure 15 businesses would try it out. How will restaurants know this is an option if it just gets posted to the website and nobody ever knows it’s there?

I really hope this is successful, I can imagine it making for a a nice experience for restaurant patrons, as well as giving restaurants additional capacity for customers without having to find a new building or remodel. Win-win.

peejay
Guest
peejay

Just wait until a someone in a car drives into one of these Seat-Streets, since they seem to drive into buildings all the time. The story will include a rundown on whether all the patrons were wearing visible clothing and helmets, natch.

Indy
Guest
Indy

MMMmmm…car exhaust with my latte please.

Tim Davis
Guest
Tim Davis

I’ve been dying to see this for a long time! Yesterday I e-mailed streetseats@portlandoregon.gov to ask if they have a site (or Twitter feed, FB page, etc) that will be *updated daily* to let us know where any Street Seats will be opening. I will DEFINITELY support those businesses that have Street Seats! We need to take back the streets for PEOPLE!

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Hm. This is a great idea. I can foresee one chain of events or the other:

Business ‘A’ covers its parking spaces for “street seats”. Customers then park on the street in front of business ‘B’, but patronize business ‘A’, ‘cuz they have cool outdoor seating. Owner of business ‘B’ then has two choices:

– Oh yeah? Well then I’m going to seatify my street parking, too! …and so on down the street…
OR
– Complain loudly that business ‘A’ is unfairly “hogging” more than its fair share of street parking (some for seats and yet more for continued car parking), and start a dust-up–perhaps a legal one–that will result in business ‘A’ converting its “street seats” back to car parking.

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

I would not be comfortable sitting in the street, sucking carbon monoxide, waiting to be mowed down by a celly/texter/drunk, and then of course, there’s the rain, ya didn’t forget about that I hope. Oh, and carcinogenic smokers, which is probably what this is really about. Still, it’ll free up the better seats indoors for me. And ditto, they should have to clear the sidewalks if they use this concept. harummph.

michweek
Guest
michweek

Umm… what business will want to invest $600 or more in winter seating? Seems like this pilot will fail due to badly picked time frame. I don’t want to sit outside when it’s cold and rainy.

Bill Stites
Guest

Whoa – is this another scenario [like SW Ankeny] where our PUBLIC space is essentially for sale to a business? I essentially agree with the sentiment of improved use of our public streets, but let’s not be selling off our mutually-owned public assets.
When I set up a sod-based parklet for PARKing day in front of Laughing Planet on Belmont over several years, they knew – perhaps because I made it clear – that their generosity in placing tables and chairs did not render the space as theirs’ alone. And to their credit, they were fine with that.
I hope it’s very clear to businesses who pay the fees for setting this up, that my homeless buddy is welcome too … and no, we don’t have to buy anything and shouldn’t be pressured to move along.
PBOT ought to make it very clear in thier policy statements and contracts that such Street Seats are still public property.

Rebecca
Guest
Rebecca

I don’t think this pilot program is set up to be successful.

First, the lack of any publicity or press release that would alert the business community to the idea and the opportunity is notable. I doubt that many restaurant/cafe owners are surfing PBOT’s website looking for business opportunities.

Secondly, the timeline. The permits expire in December 2012. Most parklets (the actual structure) in San Fran and NYC cost something in the neighborhood of $5,000-$15,000. (Not saying you couldn’t scrap one together for less, but you’re still looking at a few $K) So that means that a business owner would have to pay $459+ for the permits, plus several thousand for the structure…By the time, say, Salt & Straw got a parklet design drawn up, went through the permitting process, built and installed the thing, I’m guessing it would be end of September. That’s a lot of money, time, and effort to ask a business owner to invest for 3 months of parklet enjoyment…3 months of rain, that is.

I’m happy and thankful to see PBOT looking into it, I’m thrilled to see acknowledgement of the ROW’s value as a gathering space, and especially to see a serious re-thinking of the best and highest use of our limited public space. This pilot needs a little work, though.