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Redwood City paves the way for permanent parklets in the downtown area

The council approved a new outdoor business and dining plan
Parklet in San Francisco

Parklets, sidewalk cafes and street closures are here to stay in Redwood City—at least for the foreseeable future.

The Redwood City Council unanimously approved the Outdoor Business Activity Program Monday night, formalizing the sidewalk dining and business model that sprung up during the pandemic. 

The city reached out to 40 local businesses seeking input on the parklet program, according to Economic Development Manager Simon Vuong.

“The vast majority of businesses have shown support for this program,” he said. 

Starting in July, the city will begin phasing out existing outdoor operations, while encouraging businesses to apply for a permit to participate in the new, permanent program. 

The two-month application window for the Outdoor Business Activity Program opens on Aug. 25. Any businesses interested in participating are encouraged to submit an application as early as possible, before the temporary program ends on October 31; those without a permit have until November 4 to take down their outdoor structures. 

Ultimately, all non-permanent parklets, even those belonging to permitted businesses, must be removed by March 24, 2023.

The Outdoor Business Activity Program further establishes standardized guidelines for parklets and sidewalk cafes, including design templates, operation fees and cleaning and maintenance requirements.

All participating businesses will be required to pay annual permit and use fees. In an effort to support the businesses during this transition, the city will waive use fees for this year only, charging vendors only the initial $2,226 permit fee. For parklets, the city estimated the total “startup” cost, including a pre-fabricated structure but excluding labor and construction, to be just over $32,000.

No small amount, the participating costs were determined in part by a need to offset lost parking revenue. Each parking spot removed from public use could cost the city up to $2,408 annually, according to a report prepared by the Matrix Consulting Group.

The San Mateo Small Business Development Center will also be hosting a Summer Capital Summit on August 16 to help businesses with strategies for raising capital. 

Based on positive feedback from local businesses, the council also decided to extend the temporary street closure along the 0.1-mile stretch of Broadway between Jefferson Ave. and Main St. While the closure is planned for one year or until the emergency proclamation is lifted, city staff is currently considering more permanent street closures as part of the Downtown Precise Plan.

Resident Taylor Pope, the lone public speaker, shared his support for the changes to city street usage during Monday night’s meeting. 

“Our amazing outdoor dining downtown is one of my favorite parts of Redwood City,” he said, addressing the council.

“I strongly support this plan to help it continue beyond the emergency designation.”


Leah Worthington

About the Author: Leah Worthington

Leah is the lead reporter for the Redwood City Pulse. A Bay Area native, she has written about everything from biotechnology to true crime. When she's not writing, you can find her running or baking. Habla español!
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