SDOT goes European with new Seattle sidewalk policy

Aug 9, 2016, 5:36 AM | Updated: 5:51 pm
seattle sidewalk...
Seattle is experimenting with new sidewalk policies that will allow cafes and restaurants to move out onto the sidewalk. The blue arrow points to a sidewalk marker that indicates where the restaurant begins and the sidewalk ends. (SDOT)

Is this a Seattle sidewalk or a quaint European cafe? Maybe Portland or San Francisco?

If a local restaurant previously wanted to stretch its operation onto a Seattle sidewalk, it had to erect a fence to create a clear separation between the business and the public way. Now, the Seattle Department of Transportation is noting that state regulations have changed. The city is, in turn, changing things up a bit.

Related: Seattle PARKing Day will expand to two days this year

Thanks to a recent change by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, restaurants can now outline permitted sidewalk cafes with pavement markers instead of the standard 42-inch high fences.

The city explains that it is modeling its new Seattle sidewalk policy off of what is used in many European cities — as well as Portland and San Francisco. In a pilot program, Seattle will work with volunteer businesses to experiment with fence-less sidewalk cafes. In it’s blog, SDOT states it believes the new regulations will “activate streets, create more vibrant neighborhoods, and support economic vitality.”


In the above diagram, SDOT explains where markers must be to separate the public from the cafe.

Instead of a fence, pavement markers will be installed every 10 feet between the tables and the sidewalk. That way patrons and passersby will know where the sidewalk ends.

To start a Seattle sidewalk operation, a $146 permit will be required. That permit is good for one year. For that price, a business can get four tables with two chairs each on the sidewalk. There is also a $172 “field review fee.” Not to mention the one-time fee of $516 for the city to review the sidewalk space in question to see if the tables and chairs will work.

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SDOT goes European with new Seattle sidewalk policy