In its Dec. 9 meeting, the Dallas City Council approved the Street Seats program, which will allow for private or public parklet options and the use of up to two curbside parking spaces.
"This approval is Dallas’ semipermanent parklet seating solution that includes options for restaurants and retail establishments and a public option (no food or alcohol service), which can be activated as a traditional parklet," says Rosa Fleming, director of Dallas' Convention and Event Services.
The program has had an evolution, some of which has resulted in benefits for restaurants, consultant Amanda Popken says.
“This pilot the city had before COVID hit had some requirements that were [changed] for this new program, and I think it’s going to make it a lot more flexible, especially with how restaurants might want to use it,” says Popken, board president of the Congress for the New Urbanism North Texas. “There are two models — privately owned parklet space or public-owned for anyone who chooses to sit there or park their bike there.
“The pilot had been designed for a public space, so a private business wasn’t able to apply for a TABC permit for example. Now it’s public or private space.”
After putting out a request for proposals, the city made a contract with Better Block, which will design the parklets for this program's participants.
The city's Convention and Event Services – Office of Special Events will begin accepting and processing applications, which can be completed online, Feb. 4.
The application fee is $500, and the installation fee is $500; there's an additional $1,000 refundable bond to secure removal. No more than one street seat permit may be issued on a given block without written support from additional stakeholders, and they may only be placed adjacent to the curb in an unrestricted parking lane, on a street with dedicated permanent parking and a posted speed limit of 30 mph or less.
Oak Cliff resident Popken has also been working with council member Chad West — who has been a constant advocate for parklets — for the first permanent parklet in the Bishop Arts District.
The parklet, which is set to be complete Dec. 22, isn’t a COVID pivot, though — it’s been in the works for two years.
They won a grant from the North Central Texas Council of Governments, got the go-ahead to begin a year later and met with city staff in July 2019 to start the process through the transportation’s pilot program. That was changed to the COVID Temporary Parklet Program (which didn’t work because the group had the grant and it needed to be more permanent).
“I hope it (and the Streets Seats pilot) start a conversation across the city about what permanent parklet installations can do for businesses long-term, bringing the life of our city out into the streets,” Popken says. “This could be the one good thing that comes from this crazy pandemic situation.
“We know that there’s a movement across [Dallas-Fort Worth] and across the nation where demand is rising for walkable, urban places, and that is why we’re seeing these places are so much more expensive than other parts of town, and the only solution there is to continue to build more walkable, urban places,” Popken says.
Yes, Bishop Arts is expensive — to have a business, to rent an apartment, to pay property taxes — because its infrastructure has been built to be attractive to so many people. If there are more parts of town with this kind of intention behind city funding, that demand is met in more parts of Dallas, easing the built-up pressure on a certain part of town, such as Bishop Arts.
“Sometimes if you talk about removing cars, people get scared,” Popken says. “But the more we focus our energy on improving micro-mobility and improving beautiful places we like to move around, the more our lifestyle can shift into a more lovely and pleasant direction that doesn’t require being isolated in cars.”
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.