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Parklets get permanent status in Spokane

A parklet on Main Avenue in downtown Spokane in 2015. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
A parklet on Main Avenue in downtown Spokane in 2015. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The pop-up miniature parks that first hit Spokane streets three summers ago are here to stay.

The Spokane City Council voted unanimously Monday night to create final rules for so-called “parklets,” small gathering spaces that can fill as many as two parking spaces or loading zones outside a business. The laws also create rules for what the city is calling “streateries,” allowing bars and restaurants to extend their service beyond the sidewalk patio into the street. The term was borrowed from Seattle, which started its streatery program in 2015.

City Councilwoman Lori Kinnear, who has led the two-year pilot project examining how the structures would work in Spokane, said the incoming restauranteurs on the ground level of the remodeled Ridpath Hotel have already expressed interest in attaining a streatery license.

Streateries are intended to allow more control of the space by the adjoining business, while parklets are intended for public use, Kinnear said.

“Streateries are something the restaurant is paying for, to allow their customers to eat outside, and drink outside,” she said. “It’s not for the casual observer to come and plop down.”

San Francisco has claimed credit as the site of the world’s first parklets, in 2010. Since then, the concept – which supporters say provides a somewhat natural oasis in the middle of dense urban areas that liven streetscapes and reduce crime – has spread to Seattle, Minneapolis and Boise.

Kinnear worked with the council’s legal adviser, Brian McClatchey, and city planning staff to develop an ordinance. During the pilot project, adjoining businesses didn’t have to pay fees. But those wishing to sponsor a parklet beginning next year will have to pay $350 to apply and have their design reviewed by City Hall, another $100 annually to operate the parklet or streatery and a $1,000 bond up front to cover removal costs.

Sponsors in areas with metered parking must also pay a fee for lost revenue based on square footage. Streatery owners must pay $1.04 more per square foot monthly to take up a downtown parking space than the owner of a parklet.

Parklets and streateries may only operate from April 1 to November 1. Kinnear said that time frame allows snow plows to roll down the street. The installations will be allowed in any part of town, but require a sponsor. Only one parklet or streatery may be located on a single block face. Two could be located across the street from each other.

The Downtown Spokane Partnership, a group promoting economic development in the city’s core, has been partnering with the city on its parklet pilot projects. Mark Richard, president of the group, said adding streateries to the mix would boost the program’s popularity.

“I think once people see the commercial opportunities for this, I think it’s only going to grow,” said Richard.

Before the vote, City Councilwoman Amber Waldref said permanent parklets would allow businesses in historic sections of town to expand. City Councilman Mike Fagan, who’d voted against parklet concepts in the past, switched his vote to a “yes” Monday night based on requirements in the law that businesses keep up the appearance of the parklet and provide payment for lost parking revenue.

“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of holes in this, that we’re going to have to go back and address later,” Fagan said of the ordinance.

The panel voted 6 to 0 in favor of the permanent rules. City Council President Ben Stuckart was absent from Monday’s meeting.