SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- It looks like those pandemic-era parklets for outdoor drinking and dining are here to stay, in San Francisco. The city's Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Tuesday to make them permanent.
The parklets are part of the so-called Shared Spaces program was first introduced by London Breed following the city's Stay at Home Order last year, as a way to support businesses during the shutdown. Many restaurant owners credit the parklets for saving their business.
"Shared Spaces brought back life and excitement to our neighborhoods during an incredibly challenging time. It has been wonderful to see friends and families enjoying their community and supporting their local businesses," said Mayor Breed in a statement. "By taking the necessary steps to make Shared Spaces permanent, we are providing another lifeline for local businesses to thrive and creating a clear path forward towards rebuilding our economy as San Francisco recovers from COVID-19."
Bar owners like Tony Cooney of The Showdown in North Beach, want the parklets to stay permanent.
"We put a lot of money into these, it would be nice not to have to tear it down," said Cooney. "Definitely expands out seating capacity, I'm mean inside was good but having 30 or 40 more seats outside is really helpful," said Cooney.
"I just think this is a wonderful, wonderful new program that will be formalized going forward for our city that will help our city to thrive and help our small businesses to recover," said San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safai.
Small businesses won't have to pay permitting fees for two years.
The board also expanded the program to include public parklets for other uses like arts and entertainment.
"For us, financially those parklets brought business to - since we were not allowed to sit inside - so by having those parklets and still doing the social distancing outside, that was a savior for us," said Ryan Moran, General Manager of The Dorian.
The Dorian restaurant and bar in the Marina said since the reopening, sales have reached pre-pandemic levels with the help of its parklet and outdoor seating. They've added about 130 seats outside to the existing 198 inside.
"I think it's great especially for local businesses, things like that to stay open, make up for the lost revenue in restaurants and stuff," said resident Adam Rajhboy of San Francisco. I mean I understand the parking situation - the parking situation was always bad."
The board also voted to ensure that the spaces can be used when not in commercial use during daytime hours.
The parklets translate into more patrons for restaurants and bars but not everyone is on board.
Some residents with cars say it makes it extremely difficult to find parking since there are fewer spaces now available.
"I think they should be removed," said North Beach resident Joe Cohen. "You can't park anywhere in San Francisco anymore."
"To accommodate locals you have to remove them, because locals park in these spots," said Cohen.
But many retail owners have expressed that parklets are bad for business since they hide their storefronts and displays, making them invisible.
Residents have also expressed concern about the noise factor with parklets so close to their apartments and homes.
Under the new legislation, businesses can apply for a permit to erect a parklet on a new application portal. Mom and pop stores would be exempt from paying thousands in permit fees until sometime in 2022, while big retail chains would have to fork up the fees.
For more information, visit sf.gov/shared-spaces.
Kenny Choi and Betty Yu contributed to this story.
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