In light of relaxed restrictions set by the Alameda County Department of Public Health in June 2020, the City of Oakland implemented the Flex Streets Initiative to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local businesses. The Flex Streets Initiative worked to streamline the permitting process for sidewalk, parking lane and road encroachments. The goal behind this initiative was to encourage economic recovery by allowing businesses to use sidewalks and streets for outdoor dining and retail since indoor dining was not allowed by public health order.
To implement the Flex Streets Initiative, the City of Oakland was faced with the challenge of understanding how the community felt about the use of sidewalks in their neighborhood. It was also important for the City of Oakland to understand the physical distancing requirements needed for residents to feel safe with outdoor dining. To address this challenge, the City of Oakland collaborated with co:census to launch an SMS survey to learn how the public perceived parklet installations. Flyers with information to complete the SMS survey were distributed in areas near the parklets.
The City of Oakland is currently evaluating what the Flex Streets Initiative should look like after March 2022 and whether to continue waiving permit fees. A cost-benefit analysis on the amount of revenue lost on parking for the city and nearby businesses versus what the Flex Streets Initiative has done to expand revenue is also being conducted. The Oakland City Council will be enacting new legislation governing the Flex Streets Initiative in spring of next year.
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