(shortened version published in Philadelphia Inquirer, November 24, 2017, p. A14)
There’s a lot to like about the “streeteries” that have helped restaurants survive the pandemic and brought a new kind of liveliness to our city. But as City Council moves toward extending for another year the emergency provisions that have allowed restaurants to spill out onto the sidewalks and into the streets—making use of public property for private profit—we are missing an opportunity to make the most of the lessons that COVID has taught us.
This should be the time for us to be talking about protecting the public interest in public space. We should be focused on insuring that outdoor dining is available equitably to diners and restauranteurs throughout the city, protecting our ability to walk (and roll our wheelchairs) on sidewalks and drive through our streets, forbidding the unconditional giving away of spaces that we all own in common, and making sure that we are not condemned to live forever amid an ugly miscellany of wobbly tents, raw plywood huts, picnic tables, and teetering gas torches.
It may be too late to turn things around this year, but before the question of streeteries comes up again in 2022, we need to be ready with a citizen’s agenda for the most energizing yet safe and respectful use of our streets and sidewalks. In coming months, the Design Advocacy Group will be collecting and organizing public opinion in order to craft a shared vision--and then lobbying hard for its implementation. Join us at https://designadvocacy.org/
If you are interested in learning more about DAG’s Streetery Working Group, contact Eli Storch at email@example.com.
For the DAG Steering Committee
David B. Brownlee, Co-Vice Chair, Design Advocacy Group