Cafe Tables and Chairs
Outdoor cafe and restaurant seating (tables and chairs) helps to enliven the sidewalk environment and encourage economic development in our neighborhood commercial districts and is one of many ways to activate the space in the public right of way under the SF Better Streets Plan.
The City has established Public Works Code, Article 5.2 allowing restaurants and cafes to provide customers with outdoor seating that preserves the charms and uniqueness for which San Francisco is world famous. Cafe Tables and Chairs Guidelines have also been established for all business owners who wish to obtain a Revocable Street-Use Permit to place Tables and Chairs on the sidewalk in front of their restaurant or cafe. These guidelines balance safety and accessibility with commercial prosperity.
What ALL applicants need to know:
Tables & Chairs can be placed only on the sidewalk in front of the applicant's place of business.
- The sidewalk in front of the business must be wide enough such that a minimum of six feet of pedestrian clearance can be established. (this six feet of clearance must be free of all obstacles)
- Placement of tables and chairs on the sidewalk must not in any way interfere with curb ramps, access to the building, driveways or access to any fire escape.
- Placement of tables and chairs on the sidewalk must conform to all federal, state and local laws and regulations.
- Additional Resources and Information found in the Public Works Order 183,188 and Public Works Code.
Request for Planning Code Compliance
As part of the café tables & chairs application, you are required to gain City Planning approval. Download the Request for Planning Code Compliance. Take it to the City Planning counter located at the lobby of 1660 Mission Street along with plan, and photos for Planning staff review. Once DCP has determined that this request is in compliance with Planning Code, Public Works's Bureau of Street-Use and Mapping can then generate a Notice of Intent to Place Tables & Chairs and continue the permit process.
Placement of tables and chairs on the sidewalk must include the installation of diverters at each end to guide pedestrians away from the occupied area of the sidewalk. Diverters must conform to the following design guidelines:
- Diverters must be flush with building at approximately 90 degrees.
- Diverters must be sturdy, stable and have sufficient weight so that they cannot tip over or be blow away by the wind.
- Diverters must be at least 30-inches high and must be solid within 24-inches of the ground.
- Diverters must have contrasting colors so that they are distinctly visible to the visually impaired.
- Diverters must be removable at the end of business hours.
New Applicants Submittal Requirements
- Complete and submit the Request for Planning Code Compliance form after it has been approved and signed by the Planning Department, which is located at 1660 Mission Street, 1st Floor, Window #1.
- Complete and submit the Café Tables & Chairs permit application.
- Submit a copy of the S.F. Business License Certificate
- Submit recent photos of the sidewalk fronting your business to show the existing conditions.
- Submit fully dimensioned site plan created using a computer program. (See Sample Drawing) Hand drawn plans will not be accepted.
- Pay processing fee; payable to Public Works either by check or VISA/MC, ATM. (See Fee Schedule)
- Submit evidence of general liability insurance, a Certificate of Insurance for the business with minimum of $2,000,000 general aggregate and specifically naming “The City and County of San Francisco, its officers, officials, employees, agents, and volunteers” as additional insured. (Sample)
- Submit all the above items to the Bureau of Street Use & Mapping permit office at 1155 Market Street, 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103.
- After the completed application is processed and the site plan has been approved, a Public Works Inspector will post an 11” x 17” Notification in the window or on the side of the business for ten calendar days. (sample)
- The applicant must contact the Bureau of Street Use & Mapping three business day after the end date on the Notification. If the Bureau did not receive any objections then the applicant may pay the annual fee and obtain the permit.
- Site plan (If different from original submittal. See Tables and Chairs Site Plan)
- New copy of updated certificate Insurance providing general liability insurance endorsing the City and County of San Francisco, 1155 Market Street, 3rd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103, as additional insured.
- Expired Tables and Chairs permit (if applicable)
- Renewal fees by check, VISA or MC. (See Fee Schedule)
Application Approval Process
- Once it is determined that an applicant has met all of the basic requirements, Public Works will issue a Public Notice, informing the public that a permit is being considered to allow your business to place tables and chairs in the sidewalk area.
- The applicant will be required to post a copy of the Public Notice in a readily visible place on the front of the applying business for ten calendar days.
- If there are no objections from the public, the application will be approved and a Revocable Street-Use Permit will be issued.
- If there are objections from the public, a Public Hearing will be scheduled. Approval or denial of the application is determined at the Public Hearing.
- In the event of a denial, the applicant may appeal to the Board of Permit Appeals within 15 calendar days of the decision.
- Inspection fees will be collected at the time the permit is issued, a copy must be displayed visibly at the place of business.
Responsibilities of Permit Holders
In order to maintain this Revocable Street-use Permit, the permit holder must comply with all applicable rules and regulations which include the following:
- Permit Holder is responsible for making sure that all activities on the sidewalk stay within the approved area.
- Food trays or carts, receptacles for dirty dishes, etc shall not be placed or stored on any portion of the sidewalk or roadway area of a public street.
- Only approved diverters, which may not have protruding legs or supports, shall be used at all times.
- Diverters, tables and chairs in the sidewalk area must be kept free of advertising, litter and other debris at all times.
- Permit holder must provide at least one durable trash can within the permit area at all times.
- All tables, chairs, diverters, etc. must be promptly removed from the sidewalk area at the end of each business day.
- Permit holder must keep in force the liability insurance in which the City and County of San Francisco is named as additional insured as long as the permit is in effect.
- Permit holders must display a copy of the permit visibly for public view during business hours.
- All permit holders must request a renewal no later than 30 days prior to the expiration date of the Revocable Street-Use Permit.
Sample Cafe Table & Chairs
All applicants who can comply with these guidelines are encouraged to submit an application for a permit to:
1155 Market Street, 3rd Floor • San Francisco, CA 94103 - map
Telephone : (415) 554-5810 • Monday-Friday
Compliance vs Penalties
Businesses that are found to be non-compliant with the provisions of this permit will be issued a citation. Multiple citations will result in increased renewal fees and / or revocation of the permit.