Use street space for business

Apply to open a street to business operations, like seating, dining, or retail, and close the street to traffic.

What to do

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Businesses, merchant groups, and community organizations may apply to open streets to support business activities as part of COVID-19 economic recovery. 

You can ask for one or more blocks to be closed to traffic and opened for people and business. Partial closures of some traffic lanes, not the full street, may be possible in some locations.

We allow these activities in street space:

  • Outdoor seating for cafes and restaurants
  • Retail display or sales
  • Services 
  • Other activities in support of economic recovery

If you want to use only the sidewalk or parking lane, apply here to use the sidewalk or parking lane for your business.

1. Check our street criteria

We prefer to open streets that are:

  • Mainly businesses at the ground level
  • Free of public transit or bike lanes
  • Few or no driveways or alleys
  • Low traffic volumes and slow speeds
  • No fire or police stations or medical facilities

We will need extra time to review applications that do not meet these criteria or for partial street closures.

We prefer to open streets where there is broad community support from nearby businesses and residents.

2. Check our rules

You must follow City rules to use street space for your business: 

  • Follow physical distancing protocols
  • To use the sidewalk for your business, you must apply separately
  • Comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the SF Better Streets Plan
  • Keep intersections, crosswalks, curb ramps, driveways, and Fire Department connections free of obstructions
  • Keep furniture and all other physical objects in the approved area
  • Keep the street clean of trash, debris, and food waste at all times
  • Provide and use appropriate barriers and street signage
  • Maintain an emergency access lane through the closed block(s) free of any physical objects
  • Comply with other City regulations as applicable
  • Get required permits for specific activities like serving alcohol

3. Decide how you will use the street space

You can use street space for any permitted business or related activity.

Before you apply, you will need to decide:

  • The activities you want to do in the street space
  • The furniture, equipment, or other physical objects you want to use in the street space
  • The layout for these activities
  • If you want to serve alcohol

4. Apply

We will ask you about:

  • Your contact information
  • Proposed location
  • Time you want to use the space
  • How you want to use the space 

It will take about 10 minutes to fill out this form.

5. Wait for our email

We will email you in 3 business days to talk about next steps.

We will tell you if we cannot open your street for business.

If your street is a good fit for a Shared Space, it may take a few weeks to finalize a street plan and open the street for business.

6. Update and complete street plan

We will work together to update and complete your street plan. You will prepare:

  • Insurance documents like proof of general commercial liability and workers compensation
  • Site plan with the specific layout
  • Neighborhood support from nearby businesses and residents, your local merchant or resident associations, or your District Supervisor
  • Other permits for certain business activities

7. Get your permit

We will work with you to issue a permit and make sure you follow all safety rules.

Special cases

Provide entertainment or amplified sound outdoors

Apply for a permit to provide entertainment or amplified sound for a Shared Space, outdoor dinning, small gatherings, outdoor fitness classes, farmer's markets, and other outdoor activities. 

Cleaning and waste management

You must follow the City’s zero waste regulations. 

In most cases, you should be able to use your existing waste management systems. We recommend adding extra 3-bin systems. You may need to add extra 3-bin systems, depending on the specific uses intended for the Shared Space.

See the Zero Waste Event Checklist for more information.

Barriers and street signs

You will be responsible for getting and installing barriers and signs. The exact requirements will vary by location. 

In most cases, we will give specifications. You may have to use a contractor to develop and implement a traffic management plan if you have a complex setup.

Other permits

You may need extra permits for some activities, like beauty services or cooking. 

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

You must also work with the City to figure out how to safely serve alcohol in a closed street.

Why are we opening public spaces for businesses?

The City is making it easier for businesses to use outdoor areas through initiatives like Shared Spaces. It is safer to do business outside during the coronavirus outbreak. Businesses can reopen or expand into the sidewalk, parking lane and streets while we keep our residents healthy and minimize the risks of transmission. 

Get help

Last updated August 13, 2021