Councilmember Strauss introduces legislation to pave way for permanent outdoor dining

Seattle City Councilmember Dan Strauss has introduced legislation that would make cafe streets permanent throughout Seattle.

The legislation begins the final stage in Strauss’s efforts to make outdoor dining continue in Seattle. Strauss’s proposal incorporates some aspects of the design charrettes that helped shape the Ballard Ave Cafe Street changes.

Known as the Safe Starts Legislation, the new law would create permanent regulations surrounding “fee structures, structural standards, and design goals.” Strauss and SDOT collaborated to identify four key aspects of the program: Equity, safety, access, and sustainability.

The Ballard Ave Cafe Street pilot informed part of the Safe Starts Legislation, aspects of which included formalizing one-way traffic on Ballard Ave, increasing pedestrian space at intersections, removing unnecessary signage, and filling tree pits with permeable surfaces.

A survey of 1,300 residents in August 2022 informed many of the Ballard Ave changes and the legislation.

In the survey, 79% said they visit Ballard Ave more frequently since it became a cafe street. 93% said they visited Ballard Ave to dine, while 81% said they visited for community events. Another 75% responded that they visit for shopping.

Overwhelmingly, respondents were happy about the changes to Ballard Ave—93% said the changes were “positive” or “very positive.”

SDOT and Councilmember Strauss will continue to hold design charrettes with the community to determine future changes and policy-making for cafe streets as a whole.

“The years of outreach and work on Ballard Avenue have produced the right-sized permanent rules for street cafes in Seattle. Small businesses, foodies, and everyday Seattleites have embraced outdoor dining in both summer and winter,” Strauss said in a press release. “On Ballard Avenue we are seeing vibrancy spilling over from restaurants to retail, from daytime use to nighttime use, culminating at the Sunday Farmer’s Market. These changes to Ballard Avenue are magnetizing our business district making it even more of a destination than it was before.”

The Seattle Transportation and Utilities Committee will hear Strauss’s Safe Starts bill in December after the budget process concludes.

Photo: Jordan Samson