Many thanks for the thoughtful and balanced June 1 article by Jeremy Arias regarding sidewalk cafes. The city ordinance in place for several years has fostered downtown with a wonderfully lively, enticing vibe. But it needs revision to mitigate some unintended consequences.
Since sidewalks are public spaces, pedestrian access and safety are the prime considerations. Allowing businesses the privilege of using this public space must be tempered with the practicality of pedestrian circulation.
All cafes meet the letter of the law by allowing a 5-foot clearance. The contentious issue is the appropriate allocation of space at wider segments of sidewalk. In some areas the walkway is 15 feet wide or more. Some establishments consume more than half of the sidewalk. This is unfair. It makes sense to limit the expansion of fenced-in cafes to give preference to public circulation.
I urge interested citizens to request that the ordinance be modified with common-sense guidelines that better balance public and private interest. I urge you to let our elected officials know your concern, or better yet, attend public workshops on this topic.