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As it reopens from year of COVID-19 restrictions, Seattle wants its residents to meet, play, do business — and get married — in the street

With its residents facing a summer of transition to a full reopening after months of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, the City of Seattle is pulling out the stops to make room for more activity in the streets including easing the permit process for community block parties and street closures, and making it easier for businesses to get permits for outdoor cafes, merchandise displays, vending locations, and street closures.

The moves join the extension of the city’s “Cafe Streets Program” through May of 2022 in a strategy of reclaiming more of Seattle’s right of ways for people, not cars to boost communities, increase business opportunities, and, well, help everybody have a good time.

“Over the past year, Seattle has faced daunting challenges presented by the COVID-19 crisis. As we move to the new normal, we are finding ways for community to enjoy our streets in a safe and new ways,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in an announcement about the effort. “The Seattle Department of Transportation programs and permits such as Stay Healthy Streets, the Safe Start permits, block party, and play street permits will encourage our residents and businesses to create vibrant streetscapes around the city.”

Here’s an overview of the programs:

  • Block Party / Play Street Permits: residents and community-based organizations can close a residential street to make more room for fun and play up to 3 days a week, for a maximum of 12 hours per week during daylight hours. For residents who live on a Stay Healthy Street, driving is already limited, and Street Closed signs are in place so no permit is needed. Simply notify and invite your neighbors to join in the fun between the hours of 9AM to 9PM.
  • Safe Start Permits: temporary permits for outdoor cafes, merchandise displays, vending locations, and street closures are a terrific opportunity for restaurants, retailers, and other businesses to expand their operation by using the adjacent street and sidewalks. Additionally, fitness gyms and studio owners may now apply for one of our permits to use the public right-of-way for activities and classes. These permits have been extended to May 31, 2022.
  • Community art: SDOT is partnering with the Office of Arts & Culture to support economic and civic recovery by employing artists throughout the summer months of 2021 through an effort called Created Commons. Artists will help activate public space in creative and safe ways. The effort centers collective well-being, mental health, and creates opportunities for community connections.

The new opportunities, the city says, means residents or organizations will be able to “enliven streets, alleys, or plazas with a variety of activities” including weddings or parties, community or neighborhood events, and art walks.

Additionally, SDOT says it will soon begin expanding options for micro-businesses “that do not have a brick-and-mortar store” by allowing retail and craft vending in the right-of-way with a free temporary permit.

The city notes not all streets are available for these permits. “SDOT must balance activation with the need to operate and maintain an accessible transportation system that reliably connects people, places, and goods,” the announcement reads.

You can find out if your street fits the bill here or by emailing [email protected].

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11 days ago

This is great! Hopefully it’s well executed, with lessons learned from the growing pains of the stay healthy street programs. I’m excited to see more people and businesses taking advantage of our public space. I’d love to do exercise classes outside for example. Slowly, we’ll make Seattle more of a great city to stroll around and less of a car sewer!

11 days ago

I’ve been really enjoying all the outdoor dining options. What I’d love to see are some changes to our lake fronts, though. SLU has that great pedestrian path, which I frequently walk, and I can’t help but think what a total waste of real estate it is that all the businesses along that path are law firms, small health and beauty clinics, and insurance companies. Every other city I’ve lived in has these great neighborhoods of shops and restaurants along the water, but there is basically nowhere to enjoy other than China Harbor on that walk. It’s such a bummer. Lake Washington is just as bad. There’s Madison Valley, but not much else.

11 days ago
Reply to  Emma

From Madrona to Seward Park, almost all of Lake Washington is accessible to the public. There are lots of runners, walkers and cyclist there year-round, but as you mention, Leschi is the only lakeside “neighborhood” other than Madison Park. This is by design. Something called the Shoreline Master Program was set up 50 years ago to protect waterways in Seattle and around the county. I think Lake Union is still an industrial waterway, so there’s still hope for improving things there.

11 days ago

As a wedding blogger, I’m here for the street weddings!!