How to use the sidewalk or parking lane for your business

Follow these rules to use the sidewalk or parking lane for your business.

Ways to use public space

Sidewalk space

You may register to use sidewalk space in front of your business for business operations, like seating, dining, or retail pickup.

Parking lane

For outdoor business, you cannot use a:

  • Traffic lane (for bikes or cars)
  • Bus stop
  • Red or blue curb zone

You may apply to use outdoor space, and we will work with you to find a space near your business.

This space can be used for:

  • Curbside pickup area for cars
  • Physical distancing space for your customers to stand in line
  • Seating or dining
  • Retail use

You cannot install a deck or platform on the parking lane.

We will review all parking lane applications. We will email you within 3 business days about next steps.

Street space

If many businesses on your block want to use street space, apply together to open the street for business activity.

These applications open on June 15, 2020.

Safety rules

To use the sidewalk for business activity, you must make and maintain a straight, clear travel path at least 6 feet (2 yards) wide across your entire sidewalk.

You must not block:

  • Curb ramps or crosswalks
  • Doors
  • Driveways
  • Fire escapes
  • Fire Department connections like a hydrant or standpipe
  • Entrance access control systems
  • Sidewalk adjacent to bus stops, blue curbs (accessible parking), white curbs (accessible passenger loading zones), or bike racks

Many sidewalks in San Francisco are not wide enough for this path and retail pickup or seating. 

If you do not have enough sidewalk space, you may apply to use a parking lane or work with your neighbors to open the street to business activity.

You may talk to your neighboring businesses about using their sidewalk space.

Your outdoor business activities must follow physical distancing protocols.

Sidewalk diverters

To use the sidewalk for business operations, you must install diverters.

Your diverters must be:

  • At least 30 inches high, 12 inches wide, and 24 inches long
  • Solid within at least 24 inches off the ground
  • Sturdy, stable, and heavy enough so they cannot tip over or be blown away by the wind
  • Distinctly visible with contrasting colors
  • Removable when you close every day
  • Flush with the building at approximately 90 degrees

Nothing may extend beyond the diverter at any point.

Seating or dining

Accessibility requirements

You must have at least 1 accessible table available.

The table must:

  • Be between 28 to 34 inches high
  • Have at least 27 inches of space from the floor to the bottom of the table
  • Provide knee clearance that extends at least 19 inches under the table
  • Have a total clear floor space of 30 inches by 48 inches per seat
  • Be located a minimum distance of 4 feet to the nearest obstruction
  • Have a label displaying the International Symbol of Accessibility

You must make sure there is an accessible route to the table.

Traffic barriers

If you are using the parking lane for seating or dining, you must install a barrier between the parking lane and adjacent traffic lane.

The barrier must be:

  • 36 inches to 42 inches high
  • Not easily moved, altered, or stolen
  • Stable and sturdy enough not to fall over or be pushed over (must withstand 250 lbs of force)

Water-filled Jersey Barriers are allowed. (White is preferred for this option.)

Make a 3-foot gap in the barrier between every parking space for emergency access from the street to the curb. If there are no parking spaces, make a 3-foot gap every 20 feet.

You will move street furniture inside at night. Barriers will stay in place in the parking lane.

If the barriers are not straight or are made of planters or other individual elements, they must be right next to each other. The barrier must be continuous, except for the 3-foot emergency access gap.

For parallel parking spaces, put a visual marker between your space and the parking spaces that are still in use. Your visual marker must be perpendicular to the curb on the ends of the space you are using. This shows drivers they should not intrude into your space. We suggest a sign, A-frame, or planter.

Barriers may be made of wood or other inexpensive materials as long as they meet these requirements.

Serving alcohol

This permit does not allow you to serve alcohol outdoors.

If you want to serve alcohol in your outdoor space, apply for a COVID-19 temporary catering authorization with the California State Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.

Outdoor dining safety protocols

See all safety protocols about operating an outdoor restaurant.

Other equipment

All outdoor furniture must stay in the approved area. If you apply for parking lane use, it must be in the parking lane. If you apply for sidewalk use, it cannot obstruct the 6 foot-wide travel path.

Umbrellas must be at least 7 feet (or 84 inches) tall. They cannot extend into an emergency access path, fire escape drop ladder landing, or beyond the approved area.

Hanging or overhead objects must be at least 7 feet (or 84 inches) from the ground.

Trash, recycling, and compost should be provided within the approved area, if space allows. These bins can be kept inside the restaurant.

If you want to use a portable heater, portable generator, candles, or open flame, apply with the San Francisco Fire Department for a provisional permit.


You may use the sidewalk only when you are open.

You must bring in diverters, tables, chairs, benches, and all furnishings when you close every day.

Traffic barriers may stay out.

Your responsibilities

If you use sidewalk, parking lane, or street space, you agree to these rules.

  1. Follow physical distancing protocols
  2. Display a copy of the permit outside during business hours.
  3. Comply with local, state and federal accessibility requirements.
  4. Make and maintain a straight, clear travel path at least 6 feet (2 yards) wide across your entire sidewalk.
  5. Keep curb ramps, doors, driveways, fire escapes, or Fire Department connections free of obstructions.
  6. Keep furniture in the approved area.
  7. Use approved diverters or traffic barriers.
  8. Keep furniture and diverters clear and free of advertising. 
  9. Do not place or store food trays or carts on the sidewalk or parking lane.
  10. Keep sidewalk clean of trash, debris, and food waste at all times.
  11. Bring in furniture and diverters when you close every day.
  12. Have at least $1 million in commercial general liability insurance coverage. 
  13. Keep workers compensation insurance.
  14. Not obstruct the sidewalk next to a bus stop or blue curb zone.
  15. Recognize that this outdoor business permit is revocable at any time.

For outdoor dining, you must also make sure there is at least 1 accessible table and there is an accessible route to the table.

See the full Public Works Order about using the sidewalk or parking lane.

Find out what to expect after you apply to use sidewalk or parking lane space.



If you want to use sidewalk space in front of a neighboring property, get permission from the property owner or tenant of that property.

Multiple locations

If your business has more than one location, you must apply for each location individually.

Last updated June 17, 2020