How Seattle longs to imitate that urban utopia to the south! First there was the SLUT, and now, like Portland, we're thinking about expanding our fledgling streetcar system. Then, publicly funded campaigns-- which Portland started trying a couple years back. Now, we're studying the idea. And today the council will take a look at how they design multi-family housing in that miniature metropolis and whether Portland's courtyard communities could be the answer to Seattle's ugly townhouse woes.
But that's not all, the mayor's also got a plan to make our city friendlier for sidewalk cafes, just like Portland!
Nickels plans to introduce legislation in the coming weeks to do away with the master use permit restaurant owners now have to get from the Department of Planning and Development. Owners would still have to obtain a right of way permit from the Department of Transportation to put tables and chairs outside, but says city planner Mark Troxel, hopefully this wouldn't be as time consuming or as costly as doing both. He says Portland-- which has almost as much outside seating as it does dudes on skateboards-- served as the inspiration.
"As we often do, we looked to other cities and thought, why does Portland have so many sidewalk cafes and we don't?" By Troxel's count, Seattle has around 200 restaurants permitted for eating and drinking outside.
However, while streamlining the permitting is a step in the right direction, Seattle will never be as good-time fun as Portland because the outside drinkers will still have to be caged. In Washington, the state Liquor Control Board requires any place where booze is served outside to have a 42-inch fence to keep the kids out.
All the same, Troxel says the mayor hopes the council will consider the permitting change, and do what it can to encourage restaurant owners to liven up the streets. "It's good for the urban fabric," he says.