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San Francisco gives parklet owners a break as pandemic-era program turns permanent

New rules governing the Shared Spaces parklets that have reshaped the city’s key commercial corridors were passed unanimously at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday.

The ordinance gives owners of those parklets an additional reprieve from enforcement of city regulations meant to protect mobility and accessibility as the program transitions from an emergency, Covid-era measure into a permanent one. 

Introduced by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, the ordinance delays fines for parklet owners until April 1, 2023, which is when the permanent Shared Spaces program goes into effect. It also requires city departments to review and issue permit decisions within 30 days of receiving a complete permit application.

Under the Shared Spaces program, structures are required to abide by specific design and permitting rules that depend whether they’re on a sidewalk, take up a parking lane or sit on closed roadways. 

Parklets in the parking lane, for example, need to have a 3-feet buffer at each end of the structure, eight feet of clearance from an intersection, and a minimum 3-foot emergency access gap for every 20 feet of structure, in addition to other guidelines.

In order to keep their structures permanently, operators will be required to convert temporary permits to the new program. Applications for the permanent program are due on Nov. 1, 2022.

Fines or enforcement actions may still be taken in individual cases, particularly if parklets impede access for people with disabilities or emergency responders, if a structure is abandoned, or ​​if they block roadway visibility on a number of high-injury intersections.

Laurie Thomas, the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said some extreme cases where the structures took up much larger spaces, or led to major safety concerns, have already been addressed in recent months. 

In order to help guide businesses through the transition, the city also plans to conduct public outreach via presentations to merchant associations, cultural districts and on merchant walks. San Francisco is also offering grants of up to $2,500 to help operators bring their structures into compliance.

“We’ve gone from throwing barricades in the street to crafting a balanced program that will allow Shared Spaces to thrive, and it could not have been done without the patience and collaboration of senior and disability advocates and the small business community,” said Peskin in a statement.  

Kevin Truong can be reached at

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