Use the sidewalk or parking lane for your business

A free, temporary Shared Spaces permit to use the sidewalk or parking lane for business operations, like seating, dining, or retail pickup.

What to do

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You may apply to use the sidewalk or 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.

If you want to change an approved Shared Spaces permit, apply again. Tell us about your existing permit in your application.

You don’t need a Shared Spaces permit if you already have a permit for outdoor seating on the sidewalk. You don't need this permit if you have outdoor space like a yard or patio. Only apply if you want to use the parking lane or you need extra space.

1. Check our rules

Outdoor business use

You must follow City rules to use space in front of your business:

  • Follow physical distancing protocols
  • Display a copy of the permit during business hours
  • Maintain a straight, clear travel path at least 6 feet (2 yards) wide across your entire sidewalk
  • Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Keep curb ramps, doors, driveways, fire escapes, and Fire Department connections free of obstructions
  • Keep furniture in the approved area
  • Don’t place or store food trays or carts on the sidewalk or parking lane
  • Keep the parking lane and sidewalk clean of trash, debris, and food waste at all times
  • Don’t obstruct the sidewalk next to a bus stop, blue curb zone, white curb zone, bike rack or bike lane
  • Follow the Shared Spaces Design Guidelines

Additional sidewalk rules

  • Provide and use approved diverters
  • Keep furniture and diverters clear and free of advertising
  • Bring in furniture and diverters when you close every day

Additional parking lane seating rules

2. Decide how to use your space

You can use the sidewalk or parking lane for:

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

You may use a parking lane as a curbside pickup area for cars.

If you want to use a parking lane, measure how many feet along the curb you want to use. 

If there are metered parking spaces, count how many metered parking spaces you will use.

If you want to build a platform or other structure, follow the Shared Spaces design guidelines for structures in the parking lane.

3. Talk to your neighbors to use their space

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

If they agree, you will need to upload a screenshot or scan of their written permission with your application. 

We will also need their name and location address.

4. Check your insurance coverage

You must have and maintain general commercial liability insurance coverage as long as you have your permit. Your coverage must be at least $1,000,000 per occurrence and $2,000,000 in the aggregate. Your insurance must respond claims made against the City and County of San Francisco, as an additional insured.
You must maintain workers compensation insurance in statutory amounts. 

You are not required to submit insurance documents with your permit application. We may ask you to provide them in the future.

See the full Public Works Order about using the sidewalk or parking lane for more insurance coverage information.

5. Apply

We will ask you about:

  • Your contact information
  • Your business location and information
  • Your Business Account number
  • How you will use the space

You will also agree to your responsibilities.

It will take about 15 minutes.

We will email you a copy of your application and information about what to do next.

6. After you apply

If you applied to use sidewalk space, you may start using this space in 2 business days. We will contact you if we find issues with your application or insurance documents. You must provide and use diverters.

If you applied to use a parking lane, we will email you within 3 business days with next steps.

After you get your permit, you must provide and use traffic barriers or diverters before using the outdoor space.

We may ask you to take a picture of your space and email it to us.

Learn what to expect after you apply to use the sidewalk or parking lane.

Special cases

Serving alcohol

This permit does not allow you to serve alcohol outdoors.

If you want to serve alcohol in your outdoor space, check with the latest guidance from the California State Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.

Entertainment or amplified sound outdoors

If you want to have entertainment or amplified sound outdoors, you will have to apply for a Just Add Music (JAM) permit for Shared Spaces, outdoor dining, small gatherings, outdoor fitness classes, farmer’s markets, and other activities held outside. 

Business with multiple locations

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

Use street space
Use Port space

If you want to use space operated by the Port of San Francisco, apply for the Port's Shared Spaces program.

Use Park space

If you want to use space operated by San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, submit your inquiry here.

Other public space for business activity

On June 15, 2020, we will open applications to use public space controlled by Recreation and Parks Department, the Port of San Francisco, and other City departments.

Why are we opening public spaces for businesses?

The City is making it easier for businesses to use outdoor space. It is safer to do business outside during the coronavirus outbreak. Businesses can reopen or expand into the sidewalk and parking lane while we keep our residents healthy and safe.

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Last updated March 16, 2021