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

Structures

If you’re proposing to install a structure in the parking lane for your Shared Space, you must comply with the Shared Spaces design guidelines, and sign and submit the attestation included on the guidelines to SharedSpacesPermit@sfdpw.org.

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.

You must comply with Public Health guidance on providing outdoor airflow at your Shared Space.

Accessibility requirements

See all guidance to make your space accessible.

Traffic barricades

If you are using the parking lane for seating, retail, or other business activity, you must install barricades between the parking area and the traffic lane or any active parking.

Your barricades 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 (like when leaned against)
  • Marked with yellow high intensity retro-reflective tape or reflectors to be visible at night

Barricades may be made of wood or other inexpensive materials as long as they meet these requirements. Built structures may be used like seating with a back, display racks, or planters.

Do not include any lighting that is blinding to passing traffic.

Avoid providing a ledge for people to sit on.

We allow water-filled Jersey-type barriers (like Triton). We may also allow concrete Jersey barriers (k-rail), but they require a review.

Placement

Your barricades must be:

  • More than 5 feet from a fire hydrant
  • More than 8 feet from a crosswalk
  • No more than 7 feet from the curb or not beyond the lines marking the parking space, whichever is less
  • Continuous except for an emergency access gap

They cannot block a curb ramp, blue or red zone, or bus stop.

You must also put a barricade between your business activity and any adjacent parking spaces. The barricades should not extend past the edge of the parking space. Ideally, use a wheel stop in addition to barricades to stop a car from rolling into the space designated for business activity. 

Tables and chairs must be removed or secured in place when not in use. Barricades can stay in place but must be secured against theft or movement. You are also responsible for any necessary graffiti abatement.

Emergency access gaps

Make a 3-foot gap in the barricades between every parking space. If there are no marked parking spaces, make a 3-foot gap every 20 feet. 

To keep the space accessible, put something lightweight, like a large flowerpot with a small shrubbery or tree, in the gap. The base should be about 18 inches high and fill around a third of the gap. It should be at least waist height.

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 dining area.

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.

Outdoor heating fixtures

Outdoor heating fixtures require an additional permit

Space heaters cannot be placed under overhead canopies. They must have a 5-foot clearance from any flammable materials. 

Apply for an Operational Permit for an outdoor heating fixture with SF Fire.

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

Hours

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.

Other

Neighbors

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 February 24, 2021