SAN JOSE (BCN) Taking a cue from San Francisco, the San Jose City Council today unanimously started a pilot program allowing some restaurants to replace street parking spaces with raised "curb cafes" so patrons can sit outside.
The one-year pilot program will authorize up to five eateries to install curb-level platforms to widen the sidewalk for things like tables, chairs, bike parking and plants, city officials said.
"Residents and businesses have long asked us to find better ways to exploit San Jose's uniquely ideal weather, to bring restaurants, cafes, vendors, and gathering places out into the sunshine," Councilman Sam Liccardo said in a statement.
"Through this pilot project, we're taking a healthy step toward a solution," Liccardo said.
Storefront businesses may now apply for a permit for a proposed curb cafe, detailing the property lines and property owners within 15 feet and how many parking meters would have to be removed, according to a city staff report.
The cafe platforms, also known as "parklets," have to be on a street with a speed limit of 25 mph or less, extend no more than 6 feet outside the curb line and could not take up more than two parking spaces except under special circumstances.
The application fee is $600, and business owners have to provide $1 million in liability insurance, naming the city of San Jose as an insured party, and obtain separate permission if they want to serve alcoholic beverages outside.
San Jose's proposed curb cafe plan is similar to San Francisco's, which started in 2010 and now has 42 "parklets" along sidewalks in the Mission, Haight-Ashbury, North Beach and other neighborhoods, according to the city's website.
However, unlike San Francisco's program, in which the parklets are considered public space, those in San Jose will be considered an extension of the business, giving the business owners discretion over how the parklets can be used.
"Basically this gives the business owners the right to exclude people who are not customers," Liccardo said today.
San Jose Director of Transportation Hans Larsen said, "In San Francisco anybody can create one, it's just an extension of open space. What we want to create is an extension of the sidewalk cafe."
Larsen said there already are businesses in the downtown and Willow Glen areas that are interested in applying for a curb cafe.