Another thing that we’ve implemented in San Francisco that we should keep and expand is the Slow Streets program. With so many people cooped up and isolated in the city due to pandemic precautions, all needing to exercise and enjoy fresh air safely, this is a program whose time has come.
SF launched an outdoor dining/business program called Shared Spaces to offer some relatively safe outdoor dining activities, and to support safer pick up for delivery services from food service companies. While I want the sidewalks to be kept clear for pedestrian use full time, especially for the unimpeded use of the disabled community, the approach of using car parking space for public enjoyment is a better, higher value, higher density use of public street space than storing privately owned cars, and so I zealously support it.
You can see the Shared Spaces interactive map here.
When I say that this offers a relatively safe outdoor dining, I mean that it is very relative based on how the space is configured. I’ve walked past some of these arrangements, and they vary widely. I won’t sit with unmasked strangers from other households while they eat within a high-walled area with a tent or overlapping umbrella roof. I wouldn’t sit that close to them surrounded by an enclosure if they were smoking, so there’s no way I would sit near them when they MAY have a highly contagious and potentially fatal virus! Those configurations aren’t “outdoor” enough for me.
“Outdoor” dining has become less and less outdoors as we move into our “winter” in North America, and that’s the safety issue:
If you are looking for a really GOOD outdoor dining set up, visit the Park Chalet at the west end of Golden Gate Park, which has an large lawn and can space tables 12 feet apart easily. Or visit any Parklet in the Mission District that is outside a cafe, where the walls are low, the air moves freely, and there is a decorative element that adds to the character of the street.
My hope is that the Shared Spaces approach for using street space for human uses – rather than car storage uses – will be implemented extensively and in the long term; and also that the execution of these spaces will be improved and measured against new, fit-for-purpose standards to ensure safety and appropriate air flow even beyond the pandemic.