Perhaps timing this announcement with perfect sidewalk-cafe weather, the office of West Seattle’s Most Famous Politician (gotta use that term every so often just to keep the search results high) just sent this:
Mayor Greg Nickels today submitted legislation to the
Seattle City Council to significantly improve the city’s permitting
process for sidewalk cafes.
With the goal of encouraging more sidewalk cafes throughout Seattle,
the new permitting procedures will make it easier to apply to use city
sidewalk space. The entire permitting process will be overhauled, with
significant improvements offered on fees, processing times, design
standards, enforcement and departmental oversight.
â€œSidewalk cafes add life to our business districts,â€ said Nickels.
â€œBy simplifying permitting and reducing fees for cafes, we can take
full advantage of the summer months to enjoy cafe life outdoors.
The proposal recommends the following changes to the sidewalk cafe
Streamlining an outdated, bureaucratic permitting system by
consolidating all actions within one agency, the Seattle Department of
Transportation (SDOT), instead of shuffling applicants among multiple
Simplifying the permit review process to achieve a 10-day turn-around.
This will save months of waiting time for each application and create a
time frame comparable to leading cafe permitting processes nationwide.
Reducing the permit’s cost by nearly $1,700. With lower expenses due
to a simpler process and reduced departmental overhead, the city can cut
costs and pass the savings along to applicants.
Substituting stronger enforcement for a little-used public notice
process. The current public notice requirement is rarely used by
citizens and does not address their main sidewalk cafe concerns, which
are noise and encroachment. The proposal would improve the city’s
policing of violations through the new Department of Executive
Administration noise enforcement team.
Establishing design standards to address critical public concerns,
such as disabled access, encroachments, hours of operation, egress,
seating platforms, and landscaping. These standards, which will be
explained in full via an updated Client Assistance Memo, will reduce
permit review time and encourage consistency.
Eliminating Seattle Municipal Code inconsistency on sidewalk cafes.
This change would reduce ambiguity about acceptable cafe locations and
allow them in all districts where eating, drinking and certain retail
food establishments (i.e., grocery stores) are allowed.
There are currently 225 sidewalk cafes in the city of Seattle. The
permits that allow the use of publicly owned sidewalk space, which are
currently issued by the Department of Planning and Development with
assistance from SDOT, must be renewed on an annual basis.
Interestingly, we had just noted last week that the Celtic Swell on Alki got its sidewalk-cafe permit two years after the filing. We never got around to posting about it, though.