“What we have is a lot of free square feet and a free permit… We are offering you an empty box. That empty box is in the shape of some section of the street. You get to decide what goes in that box.”
— Greg Raisman, PBOT
One month after it was first announced, the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Healthy Business program is starting to bear its first pieces of fruit. And with Multnomah County set to enter the phase 1 stage of reopening Friday (6/19), many local restaurants are eager to expand their services into the streets.
As we reported in May, PBOT is offering a free permit program that allows business owners to use the public right-of-way for dining. This means they can set up space for customers in parking spaces/lots and travel lanes in front of their businesses. The permits allow for everything from installations like the “street seats” we currently have, to carfree plazas that spread out across the entire street — as long plans leave space for bikers, walkers and emergency vehicles to get through.
Earlier this week, PBOT held an online Q & A with members of the Portland Independent Restaurant Alliance. On that call, PBOT staffer Greg Raisman described the Healthy Business program as a partnership. “What we have is a lot of free square feet and a free permit… We are offering you an empty box. That empty box is in the shape of some section of the street. You get to decide what goes in that box.”
Raisman said PBOT has been overwhelmed with applications and over 350 Portland businesses have asked for permits so far.
The first finalized plans we’ve come across are from Paddy’s Bar & Grill on SW Yamhill and 1st in downtown. This morning, Paddy’s General Manager Elizabeth Pierce sent a letter to neighboring business to tell them about what they plan to do, “To provide a level of comfort and safety to our patrons, and… make sure our business can survive through the pandemic.”
According to plan drawings (above), Paddy’s has been granted permission to use one of the two eastbound lanes and two parking spaces on SW Yamhill between Naito and 1st. It’s unclear how exactly Paddy’s will choose to design their space.
In the call with the restaurant association on Monday, PBOT said they don’t have the resources or capacity to provide barricades and other furnishings for every business who needs them. Business owners will likely be creative with how they fill their “empty boxes”. One thing they can’t get creative about is the requirement to provide an open lane for emergency vehicle access. PBOT said there must be a minimum 11-foot wide space for first responders that will double as the pass-through lane for walkers, bike riders, and all other (non-car driving) road users.
It will be interesting to see how these plazas develop and how far businesses take the idea. PBOT has made it clear they’re willing to entertain full-scale street plazas if businesses apply together. While both PBOT and business owners are stretched thin and are working at their limit (physically and financially) these days — both want to see customers return to commercial districts as soon as possible.
Earlier today a reader sent us an image of traffic delineators he spotted on SE Stark in the Montavilla commercial district. We’ve also heard reports of similar barricades at SE 43rd and Hawthorne and on NE Dekum in Woodlawn. Stormbreaker Brewing on North Lombard in St. Johns has reported created their plaza already. And reader Ben S. shared the image below from a business on NE Alberta.
PBOT just shared with us that they’ve issued 180 permits so far, most of which were for the use of parking space plazas. 61 of them were for priority pick-up zones. They didn’t say how many partial/full street plaza permits have been issued, but did acknowledge they’re working on some of them.
PBOT’s Healthy Business permits are valid through November 1st; but who knows where we’ll be at that point. “This is going to start a conversation in the city,” PBOT’s Raisman said on Monday. “Long-term, it might create a different type of opportunity moving forward… This really is the scientific method of urban design and will be an ongoing conversation post Covid-19 I’m sure.”
— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and firstname.lastname@example.org
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I’d like a free permit to put a speed bump on my street to encourage my neighbors to operate their motor vehicles at a safe speed. That’s my Healthy Neighborhood program.
20 years ago, you could do exactly that through PBOT’s (now defunct) Residential Speed Bump Purchase Program. You could even get on an an installment plan.
Is this just a central city project (like so many things it seems)? It’s strange and a bummer to me that there appears to be only 3 spots east of 52nd or so where anyone has applied for this. And nothing east of 205. I know the streets suck out here for anything but driving but that still strikes me as odd that there is *nothing* out this way.
Slightly related, sorta?; delivery drivers are blocking the hell out of the bike lanes lately. Weak. I know no one wants to go get take out or whatever, and GrubHub and their bros will do it for you. But these drivers and the employees at restaurants the drivers are picking up at need to do better about making sure the bike lane isn’t a loading zone. Rocio’s on Gladstone…looking at you here especially.
Former East Portlander here (current Burqueno) – I’m guessing the gigantic parking lots everywhere are lower hanging fruit for most businesses? Also, the East Portland customer base was hit much harder economically by Covid related furloughs/layoffs, I’m guessing.
Still, the City should try harder to get at least *one* thing east of 205 – but I’m having trouble bringing up a single business in my mind that would be a good candidate by physical layout.
You’re probably right about all that, Alex. Still a bummer.
What’s a Burqueno?
Also I’m loving that someone voted down my comment about bike lanes not being loading zones. Lol.
Burqeno = Resident of Albuquerque, NM. (There is supposed to be the little tilde over the n but I don’t want to do the work to find that character).
I do wonder how many people come here to vote on comments that don’t actually ride a bike? (I’m sure I’ll get downvoted just for asking that).
+1 about drivers outside Rocio’s. I can usually see plenty of parking within 20 seconds of walking up/down Gladstone or even down the side streets near there, but lately there’s at least one person that thinks that as long as a tiny piece of their car is inside the parking area then they’re good to completely block the bike lane.
For someone who talks about equity as much as she does, it sure seems that Eudaly’s priorities lie in the wealthier and mostly-White downtown and inner east-side neighborhoods.
The fact that almost every project completed or proposed since she’s been the PBOT director has been in primarily beneficial to the inner east-side.
Some businesses have asked for the permits in Multnomah Village.
There aren’t a lot of sidewalk facing businesses in East Portland. If a business there wants to expand outdoor dining they’re probably better served by re-purposing part of a parking lot. That doesn’t require PBOT approval and, given that we don’t have parking minimums for retail business in Portland, I’m not sure it even needs any kind of permit from the city (maybe from the OLCC or County Health Dept?).
Are you sure that we don’t have parking minimums for retail in Portland? There used to be, and I’m looking at Table 266-2 in the zoning code which still shows parking requirements for many uses, including retail. I know there are situations where the requirements are reduced or waived (on transit streets, etc.) but those wouldn’t apply to many sites.
So if are parking requirements, then required spaces could not be blocked. Some sites could have design review requirements, former land use decisions, etc. that would affect being able to convert parking to anything else. I’d guess that unless the change was considered temporary, a land use review or zoning permit requirement might be triggered.
I really wish PBOT would allow ANY business simply via an email to accommodate people on the sidewalk and adjacent parking. NY has a simple email to the DOT and you’re in. It may be possible that the permitting system incentivizes certain neighborhoods over others.
The Montavilla neighborhood would be an amazing place with leadership from city hall. Repurposing parking space for seating using wave delineators next to 30+ mph traffic is an idea pretty much doomed at the outset. Repurposing both parking spaces and the adjacent lane with eating space and a protected bike lane would finally make that neighborhood into something livable.
I was on that Q&A and pleased to hear Greg state that NON-CUSTOMERS CANNOT BE EXCLUDED from these facilities, as they are in public space. This is going to be very important for business owners to embrace – if you place a table out in the street, ANYONE can come sit without a purchase.
This policy is essential so that we are not giving away public resources to private enterprises against the public good.
Please confirm or correct me on this statement of policy.
To be clear, I think this program is an amazing opportunity to enhance public street use for general citizens – as opposed to just car owners – to the benefit of businesses. I am working with local businesses in the Belmont area to get a full block street plaza in place at SE 34th ave., between Belmont and Morrison. As per above, I will be stressing the importance of inclusion for all Portland citizens.