SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Some San Francisco businesses will be allowed to operate on city sidewalks, streets or parks thanks to a new program being launched by the city’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force.

The Shared Spaces Program aims to support local restaurants providing takeout service, as well as beverage vendors and some retail stores by expanding their ability to operate in outdoor public spaces while simultaneously allowing for social distancing among customers and employees.

The COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force is made up of dozens of elected city officials, business owners, union officials, and nonprofit leaders. The task force aims to help businesses and employees recover from the economic fallout of COVID-19.

To be included in the program, businesses or merchant associations can apply for a free expedited permit to share sidewalks or parking lanes for business purposes. Final details on the program and permit process will be completed by mid-June and posted online at sf.gov, according to the mayor’s office.

“We know businesses in San Francisco have been hit hard, and since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been finding ways to support local retailers, restaurants, and other small businesses,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement.

“Thanks to the work of our Economic Recovery Task Force, this new program is a creative solution that will give our businesses more space to operate safely, and shift some of our street and sidewalk space to protect the economic and physical health of our entire community,” she said.

“It’s an incredibly difficult time for businesses and their employees in San Francisco, and the Economic Recovery Task Force has been hard at work identifying solutions to help businesses and people get back on their feet,” Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu said. “The Shared Spaces program is one way we’re helping to create flexibility for local businesses so that they can reopen and keep their employees and customers safe.”

City officials are hoping that once restaurant dining is allowed, sidewalks and other public spaces can be used by restaurants for outdoor dining.

In addition, businesses taking part in the Shared Spaces Program will be required to also ensure that pedestrians and people with disabilities are still able to travel safely through public spaces being used for business purposes.

According to the mayor’s office, the permit process for interested businesses could be complete as early as mid-June.

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