More than 1,800 businesses have taken advantage of the Shared Spaces program, which has been extended through next summer. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

More than 1,800 businesses have taken advantage of the Shared Spaces program, which has been extended through next summer. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Shared Spaces program extended through next June

A hallmark of The City’s pandemic response, program will continue for at least six additional months

San Francisco’s Shared Spaces program, designed to promote outdoor dining and streamline its permit process in response to the coronavirus pandemic, has been extended through next summer.

Over 1,800 businesses have taken advantage of the multi-agency initiative that allows merchants to use sidewalks, street parking spaces and other outdoor spaces such as parks, parking lots or plazas for commercial activities while still complying with pandemic precautions.

They will now be able to renew their permits and operate their businesses taking advantage of the public right of way through June 30, 2021, a six-month extension from the original sunset date at the end of this December.

The program was born out of the Economic Recovery Task Force, and it’s become a hallmark of The City’s coronavirus response, pooling resources from multiple agencies including the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, Fire Department, Public Works, Planning Department and Office of Economic and Workforce Development, among others.

Agencies have waived all fees associated with obtaining the permits and have massively expedited the turnaround time for approval in order to get businesses up and running as soon as possible. All merchants are expected to comply with COVID-19 precautions such as social distancing, sanitation protocols and mask-wearing.

Parklets, outdoor patios and sidewalk shopping corridors are frequent destinations for many residents looking to replicate some semblance of the Before Times, and blocks-long street closures such as those on Valencia Street or in the Hayes Valley neighborhood have transformed some commercial corridors into bustling, car-free hubs of activity.

It’s also quickly become a priority at City Hall.

The Economic Recovery Task Force’s 41-point plan for recovery, commissioned by Mayor London Breed and released earlier this month, included a recommendation to extend Shared Spaces through 2023, make certain facets permanent and expand its application through arts and entertainment uses as well as even more street closures and parking space conversions.

“Our Shared Spaces program has helped businesses survive, kept people working and given our residents a safe place to be outside […],” Breed tweeted in her announcement of the extension. “COVID isn’t over, and this program shouldn’t be either.”

Sidewalk and parking lane dining remain the most popular set-up among those who have taken advantage of the program, with at least 484 restaurants having secured permission to use these spaces for restaurant goers, according to the SFMTA website.

As of October 20, there were 45 roadway closures, which allow for “full-street transformations” and the chance for businesses to work in concert to close down one or more city blocks for set days and times.

Businesses who want to ensure they receive permission to extend their existing Shared Spaces permit can find out more details at the SFMTA website. Each kind of use permit requires different steps for extension or modification.

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