City asks for feedback on future of sidewalk cafes and Stay Healthy Streets

Seattle Department of Transportation is looking for public input about sidewalk cafes and Stay Healthy Streets, both of which launched during the pandemic and face uncertain futures.

Outdoor cafes and vending on streets and sidewalks—known as the Safe Starts permit program—have become a fixture in Ballard since last year, and thanks to recent city legislation, will be in place at least until May 31, 2022. District 6 Councilmember Dan Strauss helped pass the Cafe Streets program back in May, which helped secure sidewalk cafe and vending permits for Seattle businesses for another year.

Along with allowing cafes and retailers to expand onto sidewalks and public right-of-ways, SDOT is now also allowing fitness gym and studio owners to apply for temporary street closures for classes and activities. They’ll also be expanding options for businesses without a brick-and-mortar to set up retail or craft vending on sidewalks.

Now, SDOT is looking for public feedback to help shape what should happen when the Safe Starts program expires. The department has created an online survey to gauge public opinion, which will help SDOT gather information about how residents are engaging with local businesses. The survey will be open until August 15.

SDOT is also looking at whether the Stay Health Streets program should become permanent throughout Seattle. The program started last April at the beginning of the pandemic as a way for people to access outdoor recreation closer to home.

Stay Healthy Streets features vary across the city, but can include traffic safety features such as easier crossings at busy streets, speed humps to slow down drivers, and sign and pavement markings to help people find their way. Streets such as 17th Ave NW have been closed to thru-traffic throughout the program, with only local access and deliveries allowed.

“The goal is to open up more space for people rather than cars as a way to improve community and individual health,” SDOT wrote on their website when the program started.

“As we work toward providing COVID-19 vaccinations to Seattleites, we’re creating more space for people to get outside safely,” SDOT shared on their website. “Should some Stay Healthy Streets be made permanent? How should they change? What would help neighbors feel included? Take this Stay Healthy Streets survey to let us know what you think.”

There are currently 26 miles of Stay Healthy Streets in Seattle; one is on 17th Ave NW in Ballard between NW 58th St on the south end to NW 89th St on the north end.

The online survey is open now, and will help SDOT determine how people are using Stay Healthy Streets throughout Seattle.