The decks, tents, pergolas, and gazebos set up on the streets of Capitol Hill to create a safer food and drink experience during the pandemic will remain a part of the neighborhood’s streetscape — until next spring, at least.
The Seattle City Council this week approved an extension of the city’s emergency “Cafe Streets Program” through May of 2022.
CHS reported here in March on the proliferation of outdoor dining and seating around Pike/Pine as venues did what they could to safely expand capacity during COVID-19 restrictions. The new seating areas on streets and sidewalk areas have emerged outside bars and restaurants across the Hill from 15th Ave E to E Olive Way.
The new extension might have some restaurants and bars that decided to sit out the pandemic without investing in street cafe infrastructure changing their minds. E Pike’s Wildrose is one notable bar joining the wave late with its new patio seating joining the street just in time for Pride.
Meanwhile, the pandemic may have achieved an urbanist goal the city’s pilots and programs could not. From 2015 to 2017, the Seattle Department of Transportation experimented with street closures to create a more walkable, less car-clogged Pike/Pine before finally shutting down the “People Streets” experiment for good.
Gay Gilmore of Capitol Hill’s Optimism Brewing has been an advocate for the program. “We can favor people and businesses that employ them and nourish them over the cars that would normally live in the street,” Gilmore said during a virtual press conference on the extension, the Seattle Met reports.
Councilmember Dan Strauss, chair of the council’s Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee, says he is working on creating a permanent program to allow venues to continue to swap adjacent street parking for seating space.
While the program has been hailed as a success by many in the business community, there are concerns about accessibility and making sure areas like sidewalks are clear for people of all abilities. With the extension announcement, officials reminded business owners to consider safe access in their new street cafe options.
“Café streets allow us to begin to dream of all the ways the public right of ways – our streets and sidewalks – can be used for so many other things than just car storage and moving people in cars,” said Anna Zivarts, Director of the Disability Mobility Initiative at Disability Rights Washington, in a statement on the extension. “Disabled people, especially those of us who can’t drive, love to see our local communities and our neighborhood businesses thriving, but we also want to emphasize how important it is to ensure our sidewalks remain accessible. I encourage all businesses utilizing the free sidewalk and curb space permits to make sure you’re familiar with and follow the guidelines to ensure that people of all ages and abilities can continue to get around and enjoy our city.”
You can learn more about the permits and guidelines at seattle.gov.
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