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Saturday, September 8, 2012

O picks up "street seats" story

Portland's daily (for now) newspaper reported this week on the City of Portland practice of letting restaurants set up tables in parking spaces. We're quoted -- and made out to be a crank, of course. But the most interesting passage in the article is this stunning illustration of the Portland Sense of Entitlement:

Huffman, whose ChefStable restaurants are early (and so far, the only) adopters of Street Seats says, "Yes, we lose a parking space, but we add 14 to 16 seats. From a commercial perspective it’s a no-brainer."

No, guy. It's not just you who loses the parking space. It belongs to all of us, and we all lose it. Especially the neighbor whose house is around the corner from your restaurant. The customers who formerly parked in front of the restaurant will now park in front of that house. From a livability perspective, it's a no-brainer.

And we can't wait until your liability insurance carrier gets a look at the new setup. That will be a funny moment.

Comments (54)

I always like when someone tries to justify some brainless idea like seating customers in the middle of a high traffic street by saying its a 'no-brainer.'

Will it still be a no-brainer when the rain arrives?

jim, they remove the platform during the winter.

A Street Seats platform requires a $459 encroachment permit and may include additional costs, such as compensation for lost parking meter revenue, a Café Seating permit and charges for street sign changes. Transportation staff will provide accurate cost estimates based on location. The applicant is responsible for all costs associated with the design development, construction, installation, maintenance, and removal of the Street Seating extension. Also, the permit holder is required to provide evidence of liability insurance.

Please accept my apologies if the "evidence of liability insurance" only has to say "[business] has insurance" rather than "[business] has insurance that covers a bunch of people dining on a deck in a parking space."

I'm guessing the latter, but do grant that the idiots in charge of this excellent program might not care.

Zach, I have no doubt the restaurant has liability insurance. But have they told the insurance company that they're seating people literally in the street? If they have, their rates probably went up, or are about to.

Two things:

1. I'm not sure in this context that "no-brainer" means what Mr Huffman seems to think it means.
2. Seems to me that in addition to liability insurance they might also want collision coverage.

They didn't make you out to be crank.Also in the article "He adds that his insurance company did not raise his premiums to allow for the Street Seats. Statistically, he says, they have calculated no difference between sidewalk seating and Street Seats platforms." Makes you wonder about the calculation but anyhow his insurance company knows about it and will not raise his premium.

Statistically? That's pretty funny. It's a new program. What "statistics" could there be? And has the insurer actually looked at what they're setting up? In any event, the first time somebody gets hurt in any of these death traps, rates for all of them will go up.

No idea where the insurance company is getting their data. Other cities have had programs like this for a while.It's the insurance companies dime so that's their problem.

It's interesting that in Oakland the city not only requires a million dolar liability policy but also requires that the city of Oakland be named as additional insured. Not sure if Portland requires that or not.

I don't get why diners will want to sit just inches from idling traffic. The fumes are noxious. Why don't they just widen the sidewalks?

If it's a popular restaurant people may be willing to sit out on the street seats. They have got to be out by 12-31-12 so it's just for temporary seating anyhow. It's a calculated risk on the part of the restaurant. Fee plus about $2000 to build the thing vs increase in profits from more seating capacity.

I love the Street Seats program. Personally, almost every time I go to Division, I bike, so the on-street parking is of no value to me. I'm glad that the City is at least now getting some cash out of the street space that it owns rather than giving it away for free for private vehicle storage.

I saw no indication in the article projecting anyone as a "crank".

It's the insurance companies dime so that's their problem.

I disagree. It's everybody's dime (or more likely, dollars). When an insurance company gets dinged hard enough, your premiums will go up.

My home or auto insurance rates are going to go up due to an accident at one of the street seats? Maybe a major hurricane or someting along those lines might cause insurance rates to rise but a street seats accident? You've got to be kidding.

Statistically, there aren't any "street seats" in a city with wet streets six months out of the year and scads of Jefferson Smith Hydroplanes.

The insurance company doesn't have any claims history, not from P-town anyway.

More likely: he called his agent, who told him not to worry about it...The underwriting department wasn't informed.

Why would the business owner lie about this? He contacted his insurance agent explained what the street seats were and was told there will be no increase and why there would be no increase. Other cities have the same program so there is some history.

I hope the owner's liability insurance will cover him when a jury decides the restaurant is 50% liable for the first quadriplegic's lost wages award.

The CoP can afford to pay their 50% for permitting the seats to be located in a dangerous spot. At least until they file their bankruptcy petition.

rather than giving it away for free for private vehicle storage.

Temporary storage for people who are patronizing the businesses, you mean. I'm sure you don't have a similar problem when the city builds "private bike storage" in front of local businesses, right?

The liability is heaviest with the driver if they were to collide with patrons. There are inadequacies presented:

There are not "statistics" or actuarial models for this specific of an exposure - we can barely get good predictive rates from ISO on an an entire class of restaurants across the US.

Mr Tee is probably right when he says underwriting was not informed...

I do not care to dine in the street...any place!
I still say it's like playing in the street; just not very safe or a pleasant dining experience.

Dave J. - I think it would be better if temporary storage of all vehicles, including bikes, were priced at market rates. Downtown, this would be $10-$25 per car per day, $1-2 per bike. On the eastside, it might be $5 per car per day, $1 or less per bike.

However, given that the City is currently giving storage space away for free for cars, it's only fair that the City provide free storage space for bikes.

I'm not sure how much time the rest of you have spent in this area, but I've never had a problem getting a parking space within a half block or so of my destination. This isn't NW 23rd, where the absence of a single space really could cause substantial inconvenience.

That said, I am sure that "street seats" will be coming to a NW 23rd near you next summer.

I'm glad that the City is at least now getting some cash out of the street space that it owns rather than giving it away for free for private vehicle storage.

Actually, the city doesn't own the street. It's owned by the adjacent property owner, and the public has the right of way for passage. It's not clear that the public has the right of way for dining.

"Private vehicle storage"? My my, son. You have drunk the Kool-Aid deeply. Knowing that your paycheck is coming more or less from the taxpayers, as it assuredly does at PECI, explains everything, however.

"Statistically? That's pretty funny. It's a new program. What "statistics" could there be?"

Other cities have these programs and a lot more on the way, I have not seen of any issues on my quick google search. Does that mean they won't happen? No, but even in the most safe scenarios, problems arise from bad drivers like Jeffers.

When you look at safety concerns, The strip mall parking lot where the front face of the car faces the store are the most dangerous of all.

Watch the news next time you see a car going through the front of a building.

It's almost always a strip mall.

Or better yet, how about that DJ @ The Jupiter Hotel. Same parking setup...

Appearance and statistics are two different things.

Being angry at losing a parking space is one thing, but safety concerns for these seem to be overblown.

safety concerns for these seem to be overblown.

To you.

Alex Reed: "I think it would be better if temporary storage of all vehicles, including bikes, were priced at market rates."

I think Alex seems to conveniently forget that as residents of a city we pay property taxes with the explicit purpose to provide services that residents want - INCLUDING the construction of maintenance of public streets (which, in Portland, aren't even funded through property taxes but by gasoline taxes which are paid for only by motorists - this is per PBOT's own Director.)

If the City is to decide that those facilities that are publicly owned, for the benefit of the public, is to be auctioned off to the first and/or highest bidder for non-public purposes, that not only should my taxes be reduced in line to account for the decreased public expenditure needed, but that the revenue earned by selling off public property should likewise be given back to the public for the loss of public property.

As for bicyclists...they are more than welcome to propose taxing themselves if they want some kind of public program to benefit them. Just like motorists have a whole slew of taxes they pay, and again - per PBOT's own director - all Portland motor vehicle facilities are paid 100% through gas taxes. No property taxes, no income taxes. How are bicycle projects funded?

I'm sure Alex will change his tune when his favorite publicly owned facility is sold off for private benefit so that he can't use it. Maybe removing his beloved bike parking facility for a seating facility for a business he doesn't like. Maybe removing a popular bike trail in a park so that it can be turned into a private athletic field closed to the public. Shut down the popular Eastside Esplanade, and convert it to a private yacht dock... Of course it's OK when it benefits him, but let's hear him howl when he's on the losing end of the loss of PUBLIC property for private gain.

Working as he does here, Alex is understandably into public resources going for private gain. So long as it's green and sustainable and Euro and weird, anything goes.

Ridiculous. It's a public right of way, not private/commercial property. I'd feel the same way if inner NE residents tried to paint the strips in front of their houses where they usually park so nobody else could access it.

Alex, to your comment - you use "personally" and "I" an awful lot when you talk about why this is a good idea. Do you ever bother to think about the world outside of yourself? Not polemic about being "green" on your bike, how about people who use a car to physically get to a location for reasons such as health (elderly/disabled), safety (dining at night/small children in tow) or a personal choice to do things differently than you do. There's a whole world that doesn't revolve around you out there, and while it's wonderful this works for you, I'd rather not base public policy based on your preferences.

Bit of context toward my remarks directed at Alex. Spent most of this wonderful Saturday evening hanging out with a good friend. He paralyzed. He's not biking anywhere, and his van/ramp takes up a fair amount of parking space. It pisses me off to no end when "progressives" and their social engineering refuse to account for those who don't look or do things like them, so I'm more than a bit strident here.

"per PBOT's own director - all Portland motor vehicle facilities are paid 100% through gas taxes. No property taxes, no income taxes. How are bicycle projects funded? " Not true. 27% of PBOT's funding comes from parking revenue.

I don't recall ever seeing a parking meter for bikes....

When is the city going to get rid of park benches. The way I see it, that's a public space being used to store someone's private a**.

Thanks NEPguy.
I was trying to be kind to Alex in an earlier post. I will not be kind again. Alex is just sucking off the giant city tit in one form or another, and he would seem to not give a hoot about anyone but himself.
Alex, come back when you start your own business from nothing, and have had to deal with all the various city bureaucracies that put up every conceivable barrier both and physical and economical, to doing business in Portland!
Watch out when you run those stop signs on your bike, Alex.

"per PBOT's own director - all Portland motor vehicle facilities are paid 100% through gas taxes. No property taxes, no income taxes. How are bicycle projects funded? " Not true. 27% of PBOT's funding comes from parking revenue.

OK, so some of the revenue comes from parking revenue and not gas taxes per se.

And, who is subject to those parking revenues? Pedestrians? Bicyclists? Skateboarders? Babies? Elementary School aged childern? Nope.

Point stands, motorists are responsible for 100% of the revenue.

Jack, thanks for pointing out that Alex works for PECI, a spin-off using Portland taxpayer dollars to implement "Portland's Energy Conservation Policy". The Policy probably had less than 250 people contributing to its makeup, but with it's loose body of words it can be rammed down our throats in any way politicians and bureaucrats want.

We are inundated with so many PR organizations funded/promoted by city, metro, TriMet and the state that is totally controlling the agenda. Essentially we are paying Alex to blog promoting a narrow perspective.

"...Spent most of this wonderful Saturday evening hanging out with a good friend. He paralyzed...and his van/ramp takes up a fair amount of parking space."


I hate to be a contrarian, parking is an issue for the handicapped, but I've unfortunately spent plenty of time with people in wheelchairs, and I am very sensitive to ADA issues, and getting them into a restaurant (e.g., the front door or without hitting people along the way, and without blocking the aisle for patrons and waiters) was far bigger of an issue than parking.

Are you making an argument to zing Alex, or are you making an argument for people who have access and disability issues?

That is my perspective, and I view cafe seating as well as these parklets as something positive for people with disabilities with some simple design tweaks.

Let me re-iterate: please make sure your argument is aligned with people with disabilities, and is not based on trying to solidify your own viewpoint instead. My argumentation is based on my experiences, so that's fair warning on where I come from.


My point to Alex is the mindset "it works for me, so everybody get on board" is problematic because this city is not made up exclusively of healthy 20/30 somethings who want to bike everywhere. Taking up public rights of way for private use puts a strain on already tapped resources, and can lead to lots of consequences, including what I mentioned above (lack of close parking for disabled individuals). My larger point is I find this brand of "progressive" planning (force people onto bikes, bi-weekly trash pickup, etc) to be as self-centered and out of touch as Herman Cain blaming poor people for not working hard enough. There will never be a one size fits all solution to problems, but one size fits me is not the way to go either.

"Jack, thanks for pointing out that Alex works for PECI, a spin-off using Portland taxpayer dollars to implement "Portland's Energy Conservation Policy". The Policy probably had less than 250 people contributing to its makeup, but with it's loose body of words it can be rammed down our throats in any way politicians and bureaucrats want."

PECI doesn't receive Portland taxpayer money--they're a private non-profit haven't been associated with the city since the 1980s. Most of their utility programs and contracts aren't even with utilities based in Oregon.

And threading a wheel chair, a walker, or crutches along a sidewalk and 'street seat' venue isn't going to be easy either!

Sidewalk Cafes and Street Seats have to maintain a minimum pedestrian width for people to get by. If the sidewalk is too narrow you can't get a sidewalk cafe permit. Getting past these in a wheel chair or walker should not be a problem.

PECI doesn't receive Portland taxpayer money

They likely receive most of their money from taxes and fees on electric utilities and their customers, funneled through the Energy Trust of Oregon.

Nice try, though. You might want to volunteer for the Char-Lie Hales campaign.

Not to go too far off topic, but just a heads up, Jack:

Today's USA Today on line front page:

with rotating "TOP PICKS" video of "Portland, Ore.: Built for bikes, cars, pedestrians":

They did get this right:
"...why Portland is so different from other American cities"

Not really lying Jack. Most of PECI's contracts are from utility territories serving customers outside the Portland area--there's a lot of business in Utah and California. There's maybe a couple contracts for new construction and residential appliance programs through the Energy Trust, but that's not where the majority of their revenue comes from. Don't really care if you don't believe me.

PECI is just a bunch of middlemen, low-level engineers, MBA grads, ex-HVAC field staff and so on and I've got no real reason to care about that company anymore---but at least the jobs they've got left are in Portland and not Texas or India, at least for a couple years till the next layoffs... Could care less if you make PECI your latest "bête noire", in fact I'd find it particularly hilarious.

Not half as funny as your half-truth here earlier today. PECI appears to make its money off (a) forced payments imposed by government, a.k.a. taxes, and (b) direct government grants. Its officers -- particularly the CEO guy -- make high salaries and no doubt have cushy benefits. And it appears that several of its staff are typical Portland 20-something know-it-alls who think they walk on water. You're probably one of them.

I suspect that real private businesses look at PECI and at precious people like you and Alex Anonymous, and locate in places like Redmond and Hillsboro rather than in Portland.

Not really, I'm just a thirtysomething tech guy who works for one of your favorite companies out in unincorporated Washington County these days... Just trying to make a living Jack.

Jonas and Alex, claiming that PECI doesn't receive Portland taxpayer money is hiding the truth.

City of Portland received $20 Million from Federal Department of Energy. One aspect of all these funds goes to
Clean Energy Works Oregon which PECI helps administers. They give out subsidized loans and rebates for energy conservation for homes, businesses, developers, builders. PECI gets a good chunk of CoP's fed money.

There are other programs of CoP's that PECI helps administer through Oregon's DOE. It takes a little research to see all the interconnections, but it's there. Maybe the staff at PECI doesn't even understand the origin of their paychecks.

Oh, PECI also gets BPA money, which is indirectly Portland taxpayer money through your electric bills.

And PECI sure has a nice,new, beautiful office building at SW 1st and Salmon, especially for a non-profit. But I'm not saying conservation is bad, it's interesting to know who's paying for it.

As of their 2010 IRS filing of PECI,

Phil Welker, the Executive Director, made $280,040 in "reportable compensation". Lisa Wojcicki, the Deputy Executive Director, made $221,935.

Plus read on -- IIRC, somewhere in there is a consulting contract between PECI and a Welker-related entity. "Green" pays.

"And PECI sure has a nice,new, beautiful office building at SW 1st and Salmon" That makes it sound like they own the building.They don't. Just because their name is on the building and they lease space their does not mean they own the building.

A million dollars in liability is nothing. And of course a guy sitting in a "street seat" and the restaurant owner think it's great. That's called confirmation bias. What do the neighbors who lose parking spaces think of them?

"And PECI sure has a nice,new, beautiful office building at SW 1st and Salmon" That makes it sound like they own the building.They don't. Just because their name is on the building and they lease space their does not mean they own the building."

No- it just means they have the money for a really expensive lease...


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Barry Glassner - The Gospel of Food
Phil Stanford - The Peyton-Allan Files
Jesse Katz - The Opposite Field
Evelyn Waugh - Brideshead Revisited
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
David Sedaris - Holidays on Ice
Donald Miller - A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
Mitch Albom - Have a Little Faith
C.S. Lewis - The Magician's Nephew
F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
William Shakespeare - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Ivan Doig - Bucking the Sun
Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
Grace Lin - The Year of the Rat
Oscar Hijuelos - Mr. Ives' Christmas
Madeline L'Engle - A Wrinkle in Time
Steven Hart - The Last Three Miles
David Sedaris - Me Talk Pretty One Day
Karen Armstrong - The Spiral Staircase
Charles Larson - The Portland Murders
Adrian Wojnarowski - The Miracle of St. Anthony
William H. Colby - Long Goodbye
Steven D. Stark - Meet the Beatles
Phil Stanford - Portland Confidential
Rick Moody - Garden State
Jonathan Schwartz - All in Good Time
David Sedaris - Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
Anthony Holden - Big Deal
Robert J. Spitzer - The Spirit of Leadership
James McManus - Positively Fifth Street
Jeff Noon - Vurt

Road Work

Miles run year to date: 5
At this date last year: 3
Total run in 2017: 113
In 2016: 155
In 2015: 271
In 2014: 401
In 2013: 257
In 2012: 129
In 2011: 113
In 2010: 125
In 2009: 67
In 2008: 28
In 2007: 113
In 2006: 100
In 2005: 149
In 2004: 204
In 2003: 269

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