Alternative outside seating arrangements to be explored in Gourmet Ghetto

This conceptual design for a parklet is one of several being proposed by the North Shattuck Association and various businesses in the Gourmet Ghetto.
City Design Collective/Courtesy
This conceptual design for a parklet is one of several being proposed by the North Shattuck Association and various businesses in the Gourmet Ghetto.

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Long lines and congested sidewalks have caused some Gourmet Ghetto vendors to seek alternate means of accommodating patrons in one of the city’s busiest business districts.

The North Shattuck Association has led the effort to create parklets — semitemporary structures that extend into the street and provide additional space for seating — by collaborating with Berkeley City Council and community members.

Although plans for the structures are still in their preliminary stages, supporters are hopeful that a one-year pilot program will be implemented sometime this fall, after the planning department and City Council take another look at the plans.

“I think it’s an exciting idea, particularly for congestion problems outside of Cheese Board,” said Councilmember Laurie Capitelli.

The inspiration for the concept came from similar programs implemented in San Francisco and Oakland, where parklets have been used as public art installations as well as functional seating and bike parking, said the association’s Executive Director Heather Hensley.

Capitelli and Councilmember Jesse Arreguin — whose districts both contain the Gourmet Ghetto — have met with city planners to discuss how permitting would work. Capitelli previously introduced a resolution to the council concerning parking changes but withdrew it in order to clarify more of the details.

“We’re really looking at it as a community project,” Hensley said.

So far, the association is working with three specific sites where business owners are interested in trying out the parklet concept — the areas in front of The Cheese Board Collective, Guerilla Cafe and Philz Coffee and the street in front of Masse’s Pastries and Saul’s Restaurant and Delicatessen.

Since each parklet takes up two parking spaces, parking reconfiguration plans are also part of the discussion. According to Hensley, the program is working with designers to create 10 additional spaces elsewhere in the area, leaving a net gain of three parking spaces.

Guerilla Cafe employee Ralph Brown said the concept of parklets would lend a more artistic atmosphere to the area.

“Parking is already a concern, but most of our business comes from foot traffic,” Brown said.

Hensley said city Planning Director Eric Angstadt dealt with similar projects in his previous role in Oakland’s planning department, which created parklets while also creating additional parking spaces elsewhere in the city.

“Businesses are excited about it,” Hensley said. “They understand that it’s public space, but they would help manage it.”

Adelyn Baxter is the city news editor.