Patrons enjoying the The Hatch's flex street.
The Hatch's parklet on 15th Street, which is a designated "Flex Street." Credit: Amir Aziz

Oakland residents have until July 31 to submit feedback on the draft guidelines for the Flex Streets permanent parklet program, which will start July 1, 2023. 

The City Council voted to make Oakland’s Flex Streets program permanent this past March. Parklets, structures that allow a store to use a portion of the sidewalk or street as a dining, lounge, or retail area, popped up in parts of Oakland in 2020 when businesses had to cease nearly all indoor activity under state and local COVID guidelines. So far, Flex Streets permits have been given to business owners at no cost. 

Any type of business can take advantage of Flex Streets, but it’s been used overwhelmingly by restaurants to construct parklets for outdoor dining. The city has reported that over 140 permits have been utilized for sidewalk street cafes and other types of parklets. 

The draft guidelines cover an array of issues such as where a parklet can be located and how they’re operated, as well as parklet design, traffic safety, accessibility, and fire safety. Businesses will also be asked to start paying fees for their Flex Streets permit in order to have a parklet, though the amount has not yet been decided. 

In the past, people have raised concerns about parklets blocking utility panels and being safety hazards for pedestrians and cyclists. Business owners in East Oakland have also expressed frustration with not being able to utilize the parklet program due to a lack of outreach, as well as safety issues in their part of the city. 

Individuals can submit their feedback here before July 31. 

Ricky Rodas is a member of the 2020 graduating class of the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Before joining The Oaklandside, he spent two years reporting on immigrant communities in the Bay Area as a reporter for the local news sites Oakland North, Mission Local, and Richmond Confidential. Rodas, who is Salvadoran American and bilingual, is on The Oaklandside team through a partnership with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.