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Most of Seattle doesn't have these "side-walks" you're talking about, so we're clueless about any of these issues. We would need to live in a city that thinks side-walks are a core part of its"Pedestrian" Master Plan and responsibility to the city in order for this discussion to be relevant to us.

Now excuse while I walk on the asphalt of the roadway down to my local cafe (which actually does have outdoor seating), but only after putting on several blinkers and reflectors to make sure today's crazed drivers don't run me over before I get to my crema.

Posted by Simac | October 2, 2008 1:10 PM

Sidewalk cafes are a hallmark of a civilized society, and street furniture like "poles, circuit and newspaper boxes, signs, trees, and parking kiosks" actually INCREASE the civic usability of streets. Read William Whyte on the subject. Leman doesn't know it, because he's a moron, but he's advocating for dead streets and dead cities.

I was amused to see last week that the sidewalk cafes in Nelson, BC, not only take up the sidewalk, but extend out into the parking lane as far as the parked cars do, like little decks. the pedestrian walk is on the building side, where waiters and customers mingle with the peds. It's a good idea.

Paris is the obvious example here, but many other cities have made their streets come alive with sidewalk cafes: Vancouver, Melbourne. I say the more the merrier. I think they should make it illegal to have a restaurant facing on a public sidewalk without outdoor seating there.

Posted by Fnarf | October 2, 2008 1:18 PM

I like the idea of sidewalk cafe's! But Seattle was never designed for them. It would assume our council and mayor were "serious" about making Seattle walkable. And we know where that gets us....

Posted by Andrew | October 2, 2008 1:19 PM

I'm not a fan of sidewalk cafes in Seattle.

First, if I'm trying to get somewhere on foot, I hate having to try to walk past some of these cafes, which sometimes spill so far out onto the sidewalk that you can barely get past them. With even nominal pedestrian traffic, these cafes become total roadblocks, or rather sidewalk-blocks.

Second, our weather is too crappy for about 2/3 of the year. Really, we've got a window of about June - September for decent outdoor eating weather. The rest of the year, outdoor eating is strictly for diehards.

Finally, restaurants don't want to open more sidewalk cafes to build community and serve the public good. Restaurants are a business. They want sidewalk cafe's to enhance their profit margin. It is a great boost to them if they can add another handful of tables on the sidewalk rent-free.

If they want outdoor eating space as a feature of their restaurant, they should build/lease space that is set back farther from the sidewalk, not intrude into pedestrian space.

Posted by Reverse Polarity | October 2, 2008 1:23 PM

widen sidewalks please.

more street vendors please.

Posted by jrrrl | October 2, 2008 1:30 PM

Um without any example of cafes harming any pedestrian or any disabled person it's hard to swallow the nightmares posed by C. Leman.

It's all typical Seattle imaginary fear and desire for heavy handed regulation.
Just put in the regulations they can't "reasonably impair public use of the right of way" and let everyone figure it out later -- when there's like a real problem somewhere?
Why would an owner piss people off by taking up too much space? Why would you, a patron want to sit at some cafe table blocking a disabled person?
I doubt there's really any problem that requires tons of regulations.
Rather than listen to neighborhood activists who cite no actual examples of any real problems, let's just send to Paris for all their regulations on sidewalk cafes and fucking copy what they do there. I don't recall any inability of folks to stroll or wheel around over there and the dafes were quite delightful.

Esp. La Coupole, the ones in Les Halles, and the one where I get a bit part in a French movie w/ Marie France Pissier.

Here's another shocker:

vendors put their wares out on the sidewalk too, including fish, cheese meat fruit and so on. And some of them weren't in glass encased refridgerators, the horrors! Anyone could walk right by and sneeze on them or touch them!


Posted by PC | October 2, 2008 1:36 PM

seattle wasn't built for them! it rains here! those tax dollars should go to my walking space not restaurant space!

wah wah.

paris sidewalks are sometimes just wide enough for a table, a, chair, and a person to walk by. it's great. when it rains, people are still there, under the canopies. and, if what i was told while there was accurate, they pay taxes based on how much space they take up.

Posted by infrequent | October 2, 2008 1:39 PM

uh, why get excited about the expansion of sidewalk cafes in a city where it's only possible to sit outside comfortably about 34 days a year?

Posted by michael strangeways | October 2, 2008 1:40 PM

1 - thank you. I say we just allow wanton public drinking and save everyone the headache.

4 & 8, you need hats. Or new neighbors; I recommend California.

Posted by uncle baggy | October 2, 2008 1:47 PM

I love me some eating and drinking on the sidewalk. A lot of SF is too annoyingly windy for it to be a very peaceful experience, but we still try our damndest. Shit, in this city, the more eyes on the street, the better. And so your weather is crappy 2/3's of the year? - it'll give you another reason to look forward to summer.

I've got about a million sidewalk etiquette pet-peeves I could rant on, but I'm still all for the table and chair obstacle course.

(P.S. while I'm here Seattle - if it's raining, leave the covered walking space for folks without umbrellas. Walking under an awning with an umbrella open should be a ticketable offense.)

Posted by Dougsf | October 2, 2008 1:50 PM

More sidewalk cafes, please. And yes, more kiosks and vendors on the streets as well. Bring our streets to life! If we need to narrow the roads, then so be it.

Posted by Timothy | October 2, 2008 1:54 PM

It's amazing how New York City and ALL OF EUROPE manage just fine.

We need to be mindful of access for the disabled but this debate inevitable derails into a shrill discussion of how we're "ceding our sidewalks to the developers, so East Siders can come here to dine."

Restaurants want to build sidewalk cafes because they think they will turn a profit. They think they will turn a profit because there is a demand. There is a demand because Seattleites want to enjoy the few nice days we get.

Let's just rent the sidewalks to restaurants and put that money into transit or sidewalk maintenance. There are many possible solutions that can benefit everyone.

Posted by Dawgson | October 2, 2008 2:28 PM

Solution: Get rid of (some) on street parking downtown, widen the sidewalks, and let businesses lease the land (sidewalk area) from the city for a reasonable price.

Posted by genman | October 2, 2008 2:29 PM

Thanks for posting Erica!
And I think I know what side I'm on. Let's bug the city to narrow streets and allow a "business lane" for vendors and restaurants to use. Everyone wins!
Pedestrians and businesses can work together for the benefit of the whole city.

Posted by Enigma | October 2, 2008 2:33 PM

Dawgson, it's not "all of Europe". Most of Europe doesn't have much in the way of sidewalk cafes, either. But the exciting parts tend to.

But even a decade ago as vibrant a city as London had virtually no sidewalk seating. They're putting it in now, and it's for the most part a smashing success, as you might imagine.

Getting rid of street parking, as I have pointed out over and over, is the worst possible thing you could do. Nobody wants to sit outside inches away from a speeding expressway. Parked -- and parking -- cars provide the buffer zone you absolutely need to have to avoid turning all our streets into Aurora Avenue North.

Posted by Fnarf | October 2, 2008 2:34 PM

Most of the places in Europe with sidewalk seating (France and Italy) have considerably bigger set-backs, often 20' or more. Businesses have to be willing to give up some interior space for this to work well.

Posted by David Wright | October 2, 2008 3:01 PM

Sidewalk seating for 4 month a year use...maybe.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 2, 2008 3:40 PM

@16, that's true of the big cafes on the main drags, but there are many, many sidwalk cafes in many, many world cities with small setbacks. Seriously, the obsession with maximizing emptiness in public spaces is counter to everything we know about how those spaces are used. Crowded spaces ATTRACT people.

Posted by Fnarf | October 2, 2008 3:48 PM

Fnarf, I'm impressed that you cited William Whyte...he was truly a student of the city.

To everyone who complained about Seattle's weather: I live in a climate that's exactly like Seattle's, where sidewalk seating is becoming quite normal. The cafes put out their chairs in about mid-March, and leave them there till about the end of October. Many places put out blankets on the chairs. If they serve spiced wine around Christmastime, there are usually tables outside for that as well... That stuff will keep your cheeks rosy!

Also, Copenhagen. They've implemented pedestrian-friendly changes in their inner city and now it has an incredible café scene.

So don't be giving me any of that "France and Italy" stuff. Northern Europe does it too.

My proposal for Seattle's streets would be to narrow some of the lanes. Then:

edge of street
parking, with tree islands every few spaces
bike lane optional

Posted by raisedbywolves | October 2, 2008 3:50 PM

Also, in places that have lots of sidewalk seating, they use those propane heater towers in the shoulder season. They work surprisingly well.

William Whyte is one of my idols. No one should be expressing opinions on urban design who hasn't at least read City, whether you agree with his conclusions or not.

Posted by Fnarf | October 2, 2008 4:41 PM

To tell you the truth... Those propane heaters kind of bug me. I never get a table near one if I can help it, because they make me feel like a marshmallow being held up to a campfire!

Posted by raisedbywolves | October 2, 2008 5:03 PM

thank god for Fnarf as he makes all the important points.

Posted by david sucher | October 2, 2008 5:51 PM

Have just returned from a vacation in Paris. The cafe seating made pushing a wheelchair around a COMPLETE misery. Between the tables, circular tree grates, and roads there was nowhere at all for the wheelchair to go. Cafe seating is great (when it's not cold, forget about those propane heaters, they're seriously anti-green), but should be kept within a clearly defined area.

Posted by Steve London | October 3, 2008 3:25 AM

Size of setback doesn't matter as long as everything has to be behind chain-link anyhow, because of our benighted Liquor Control Board. Look at Matador, in Ballard. Even on colder nights, that railing is still taking up sidewalk space, just sitting there for me to nut myself on when running for the bus. Getting rid of all those railings on the sidewalk would make everything a lot more flexible.

But outdoor seating doesn't need to only be a few chairs on a sidewalk. Can anyone besides me imagine how nice Red Square would be on a late spring evening with rows and rows of cafe tables, uniformed waiters, and a band?

Posted by onewink3 | October 3, 2008 12:48 PM

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