San Francisco restaurants may be forced to remove parklets

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Many San Francisco restaurants and bars say they feel blindsided after receiving warnings and notices of code violations because of their outdoor parklets.

The city made the parklets permanent earlier this year but also imposed new rules that may force some restaurants to tear down their parklets altogether.

Some restaurants say the notices began coming in weeks ago from different departments warning owners that if they didn’t bring their parklet into compliance, they’d be slapped with hefty fines.

However, one city leader says this actually isn’t allowed, at least until June. He says this is disorganization from the local government and the city needs to do better.

After pouring thousands of dollars into building outdoor parklets, some San Francisco restaurants and bars say they’re now considering tearing down. Many of them were made aware of these changes when they received warnings of code violations.

“A lot of these violation notices were incredibly scary and heavy-handed sounding, listing the fines you’d have to pay on day one, day two if you’re out of compliance and demanding that things are done by December 31, like go find a contractor in the month of December, like they don’t exist,” Ben Bleiman said.

Ben Bleiman owns multiple bars in the city and is president of the San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance. 

He says he received a notice and personally knows nearly 30 other bar owners who have received these warnings. 

Bleiman says there’s been a large misunderstanding by many owners and a large miscommunication between city departments.

“The fact is that a lot of the structures that were built don’t pass basic city ordinances. The second thing that happened is they started to interpret the permanent legislation and some different departments started making interpretations that we didn’t expect. One thing we didn’t see coming is having to bring them in 3 feet from the parking hashtags,” Bleiman said.

Laurie Thomas with the Golden Gate Restaurant Association adds that’s only the beginning of these new rules that came out of a new 66-page document.

“Three feet off the ends? First time I saw that was September 9th. I have emails going to people like what? No, obviously you’re built in a red zone or same thing, an intersection. Nowhere did we know you’re going to have to move your parklets 20 feet away from an intersection,” Thomas said.

San Francisco made the parklets permanent earlier this year and according to legislation put together by the Board of Supervisors, business owners have up until June 30th to come up to code before they can be fined, despite what these warnings say.

“All the permittees, the restaurants, bars and what you have it breathed a sigh of relief only to find out that a number of city departments, who have not been coordinating, who have not even been adhering to the law that the board of supervisors unanimously passed, have been issuing notices of correction, violation, with threats of fines and fines are not authorized or allowed until mid-2022,” Supervisor Aaron Peskin said.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin recently introduced legislation to delay this deadline until March of 2023, saying the city needs to treat these small businesses better after what they’ve been through for the last nearly two years.

Supervisor Peskin says the legislation will go to the full board early next month. 

He’s confident that it will pass, a reason why the San Francisco Bar Owner Alliance is telling its members to hold off on making any decisions until the city comes together and there is a clear picture of what the rules are moving forward.

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