Making the Shared Spaces Program Permanent

Learn about how the Shared Spaces program is transitioning from an emergency response to a permanent program through and after the pandemic.


Building on Success

Shared Spaces has been a critical part of the City’s crisis response strategy to sustain the locally-owned small business sector in San Francisco.  Due to widespread success throughout the City’s neighborhoods, on Friday, March 12, Mayor Breed announced legislation to transition Shared Spaces from an emergency response into a permanent program through and after the pandemic.  The legislation was officially introduced on Tuesday, March 16.  

The permanent version of the program will carry forward the streamlined permit process; encourage arts & culture; and better balance commercial activities with public space and transportation demands of the recovering economy.  Revised design and operating regulations won’t go into effect for pre-existing operators until January 1, 2022; giving pre-existing operators time to apply for the new permit and make any essential changes. Once the legislation goes into effect, any new operators will need to apply under the new program.  Fees for all operators, both pre-existing and new, will be deferred until June 2022.

This legislation was developed in coordination with multiple City agencies and stakeholders, including Planning, SFMTA, Public Works, the Fire Department, the Police Department, the Entertainment Commission, the Mayor’s Office on Disability, the Economic Recovery Task Force, the Board of Supervisors, Commercial Business Districts, Merchant Associations, Small Business Commission, the Planning Commission, and public space and mobility advocates.

Goals of Legislation

  1. Simplify the City’s toolbox by consolidating the permit process, streamlining it for permittees and creating a single, one-stop permit portal. 
  2. Prioritize equity and inclusion by prioritizing City resources for communities most impacted by historical disparities with funding, materials and grants. Ensure that the needs of the disabled community are accommodated.
  3. Phase the implementation of the program with economic conditions so that businesses have time to adapt to the new permit process.   
  4. Encourage arts, culture and entertainment activities by carrying forward the Just Add Music (JAM) permit and allow for arts and culture activities to be the primary use of the space, not just secondary. 
  5. Balance the needs of the curb by ensuring our Transit First and Vision Zero policies remain priorities, balance Shared Spaces occupancies with loading, short-term parking, micromobility needs, and other curbside functions; and encourage sharing of Shared Spaces amongst merchants on the same block.  
  6. Maintain public access by ensuring every Shared Space provides public access when not in commercial use and providing a seating opportunity during daytime hours, including business, operating hours. 
  7. Efficient Permit Review and Approvals with a clearly defined 30-day approvals timetable, aligning with Prop H requirements.  This also allows for better design quality and therefore safety.
  8. Clear Public Input Procedures will encourage collaboration between neighbors and merchants.
  9. Coordinated Enforcement by a single agency with a ‘Single Bill of Health,’ which is easy for operators to understand and comply with.

Types of Shared Spaces

Sidewalk Shared Spaces

  1. Sidewalk Merchandising, displaying goods outside  
  2. Sidewalk Café Tables and Chairs, similar to the pre-existing sidewalk dining permit, but with more streamlined public notice requirements

Curbside Lane Shared Spaces (Parklets)

  1. A Public Parklet, similar to the City’s pre-COVID parklets, a fixed structure providing full-time, publicly accessible space and no commercial activity.
  2. A Movable Commercial Parklet, a space occupied by the operator using movable fixtures during limited business hours with a bench or other public seating facility. This option allows operators to use curb space that is needed for other curbside functions during the day, such as a Brunch restaurant that only operates until 1pm, after which the curb space is used for loading or short-term parking.
  3. A Commercial Parklet, similar to existing Shared Spaces, a fixed structure where an operator uses the parklet for commercial activity during business hours with a bench or other public seating facility, and is otherwise open to the public during non-commercial daytime hours.

Roadway Shared Spaces

  1. Community Event, neighborhood-led, free and open to the neighborhood event.  These events are not approved by staff.  Instead, they will be approved through the existing ISCOTT process, which includes membership of key departments, including SFPD, SFFD, SFMTA, Public Works, and others.

Private Property Shared Spaces

  1. In open lots, courtyards and rear yards between the hours of 9am and 10pm.

Entertainment, Arts & Culture

  1. Live music and other performing arts will be easier to do on a recurring basis in all of the outdoor venues listed above.

Public Hearings

Below is a calendar of public hearings and presentations.  Use the links to access agendas and supporting documents.  Please check back here for updates on additional hearings as they are scheduled.

Last updated May 07, 2021