Portland Expands “Street Seats” Program

Ten restaurants will be joining the Portland Street Seats program this year.

Street Seats is a program of the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) that allows businesses or non-profit organizations to convert on-street parking into other public uses, such as café seating or a mini-park. Based on similar programs in San Francisco and New York City, the program enlivens the streetscape by creating spaces for Portlanders to enjoy seating and a meal or a drink outdoors, which in turn enhances street vitality and benefits local businesses.

The city will allow about ten additional businesses to expand into parking spaces that front their buildings. Currently, eight restaurants take advantage of the program, under which restaurants can build some sort of platform and railing to make the dining area more inviting and ostensibly safer.

Here is a list of restaurants in 2014 who have applied to renew 2013 permits:

  • The Analog Café, 720 SE Hawthorne
  • Bartini/Urban Fondue, 2108-2118 NW Glisan
  • Center for Architecture, Design Competition, 403 NW 11th Ave
  • Enzo’s Caffe Italiano, 2529 NE Alberta St
  • Mississippi Pizza, 3552 N Mississippi Ave
  • Oven & Shaker, 1134 NW Everett St
  • The Portland Bottle Shop, 7960 SE 13th Ave
  • Songbird Café, 6839 SE Belmont St

 

These are the restaurants which have filed for new permits:

  • Bamboo Izakaya, 1409 NE Alberta St
  • Bonfire Lounge, 2821 SE Stark
  • Brix Tavern, 1338 NW Hoyt St
  • Dick’s Kitchen Belmont, 3312 SE Belmont St
  • Lampoc Brewing, 1620 NW 23rd Ave
  • McMenamins – Barley Mill, 1629 SE Hawthorne Blvd
  • McMenamins – Greater Trump, 1520 SE 37th Ave
  • Ristorante Roma, 622 SW 12th Ave
  • SoMa Ecodistrict public seating, SW 4th Ave, between College and Hall
  • Torta-Landia, 4144 SE 60th Ave

Note that the 2014 application window has now closed, but it is interesting to look at the requirements that make up the application process.

 

Design document package. Street Seat applicants will be required to submit a complete set of detailed proposal drawings in order to be considered for approval, including a full set of detailed design drawings.

[The city website lists design/architecture firms that have “identified themselves as capable of designing and/or installing Street Seat style platforms.]

Community support documentation. Applicants will also be required to submit documentation of community support as an application attachment. Demonstrated neighborhood support for the proposal will be one of the evaluation criteria used to select submissions.

Design Guidelines. Changes in 2014 to the Street Seat Design Guidelines include a reduction of the maximum platform width from seven feet to six feet. Also Street Seat applications will be accepted for locations on streets with posted speed limits of 30 mph.

Café Seating Permit. Applicants who have an approved Café Seating Permit for existing outdoor sidewalk seating will need to submit a revised Sidewalk Café Concept Drawing and sign a new Responsible Party Agreement form.

[A seating permit is required for any sidewalk seating, not just those which occupy parking spaces]

Renewal applications. Applicants who wish to renew existing Street Seat installations will be required to complete a new application form each year. In addition, they must provide demonstration of continued community support for installation and drawings detailing any proposed design changes, if applicable.

I’ve had several readers comment on the loss of parking revenue, but in actuality, the city may come out ahead, as along with a $500 base fee, a charge of $105 per linear foot of platform, $2000-$7000  for lost meter revenue, and a fee to cover “additional incurred costs”, just the paperwork and permits more than make up for the loss.

So here’s the thing. I’ve sat in these areas at Oven & Shaker as well as on Mississippi Avenue. Though it seems to be very popular, why anyone wants to sit next to the roar of rush hour traffic Northwest Everett St. is beyond me. I found it to be a miserable, and slightly unnerving experience. Mississippi Pizza, located on a quieter street was a much more pleasant experience, especially since the owner had obviously made an effort to make the area interesting. Still, I couldn’t help wondering about the overall safety of the program. A few wood rails or a planter aren’t going to make much of a difference when a driver preoccupied with texting plows into the side of one of these seating areas, or someone who is parked behind one of them hits the gas instead of the brake. As much as I like the idea of these, and appreciate the effort being put into the design, I wonder if the program as it exists isn’t a disaster waiting to happen. It seems to me that there should be a bit more stringent effort to keep vehicles away from the Street Seats.

You can see lots of images of current Street Seats here.

 

Your thoughts are welcome

  1. Michele says

    Re this on the Street Seating program “The city will allow about ten additional businesses to expand into parking spaces that front their buildings. Currently, eight restaurants take advantage of the program, under which restaurants can build some sort of platform and railing to make the dining area more inviting and ostensibly safer.” I sure hope the city is making sure that those platforms, if built, are accessible to all people, including people with disabilities like those using wheelchairs or walkers who cannot climb up a step onto a raised platform. The 1990 Civil Rights law known as ADA requires that equal access. It is amazing even in a city as socially progressive as Portland how many eating establishments have the equivalent of “whites only” on their doors for access. I recommend folks keep in mine an acquaintance of mine. A 20 something Iraqi war vet whose legs were severed during his time in service. He noted that no eating or drinking establishment would deny him entry in the door…or on a raised platform…because of his Hispanic heritage but seemed to thinking nothing of blocking him out due to his status in the population of disabled Americans. He said “When I walked around in my uniform I was a hero. Now I’m sometimes treated like an enemy for just wanting equal access through the door.” Or in this case, up on a platform for outside seating.” I hope this is being paid close attention to.

    • says

      Michele, they are making sure they meet the ADA – “Platform should be as level as possible and flush with the sidewalk height. At least 12 feet of the platform must be flush with the adjacent sidewalk for wheelchair access.”

  2. Marjorie says

    As a pedestrian I have had waiters run into me and give me attitude because I am in their way. These extra seating islands do not enhance anything and stop me from going to businesses next door like Trader Joes .

  3. says

    I’m with you on this one Food Dude. This is one of those “bright ideas” that someone in city government should have declined due to safety issues. I cringe when I see cars speeding alongside these inconsequential structures in the street. Will it take a tragedy for us to wake up? Plus, as you say, they aren’t pleasant places to eat.

  4. Jill-O says

    I get that expanding your seating temporarily can be a great deal for a restaurant. But I have the same concerns about putting diners out in traffic (they call them accidents for a reason…and they do happen). Additionally, I do not think that they should be allowed on streets that serve as a bus route. Not only is the exhaust more unpleasant for the diners and servers, but it makes for a more clogged traffic pattern than is necessary (or was ever forecasted by planners). When there was one on SE Division last year, I could not believe that they approved it with all of the construction going on, much less all of the traffic and buses. They should be pickier where they approve them. The one at Songbird is a no-brainer, why not…but the one on N Mississippi – that’s insane.

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