PORT TOWNSEND — In recent days, hundreds of comments have rained down on the Port Townsend City Council. This feedback, via a public survey, included a range of emotions from love to disgust, about the outdoor spaces known as “streateries.”
During Monday night’s council meeting, held in person and online, the council heard a report on the survey, which city Public Works Director Steve King said sparked an “amazing response.”
Some 520 people answered its questions about whether streateries should be permitted in Port Townsend long term; the majority had dined in the outdoor spaces, which are set up in the roadway beside a handful of restaurants Uptown and downtown.
More than 300 of the survey comments were negative, Mari Mullen, Main Street Program executive director, told the council.
“This feels like a theft of public streets,” one respondent wrote, adding that the streateries give restaurants added space at the expense of other businesses.
The streateries also rob people of valuable parking spaces, survey-takers lamented.
One respondent called the streatery structures “ugly.” Another wrote, “We do not enjoy eating in the street.”
“There is no parking available, what is the proposal for that?” asked a respondent. “And sidewalks are also crowded by eating areas now. We used to have a nice walkable town, just not enough parking, so now you clutter up the sidewalks and take away parking spaces?”
Then there were those who dine often in the streateries, which are set up beside the Old Whiskey Mill, Alchemy Bistro and Tommyknockers downtown and outside Seal Dog Coffee and the Uptown Pub on Lawrence Street.
“Any eating/drinking establishment should be able to have outdoor space if at all feasible, regardless of taking more parking spaces. Our town should be for people, not cars,” wrote one respondent.
“I love parklets and streateries! I think they’re a great addition to PT,” added another.
Yet the prevailing message, to council member Monica MickHager, was that people want a better parking policy downtown.
Many expressed disappointment with city leaders — for various reasons, but primarily for their inaction on the parking front.
“We can never make everybody happy,” MickHager said, and then asked if there’s some way to respond to the disgruntled ones.
Mayor David Faber answered: “Do not be beholden to the loud minority,” he said, adding, “it’s important to not get scared” by a couple of hundred negative responses about streateries and parking.
Deputy Mayor Amy Howard, for her part, acknowledged that the community is fed up with the downtown struggle. Trying to balance the interests of various factions — motorists, restaurateurs, retailers, employees — is a challenge, she said.
Yet, “I am absolutely in favor of continuing on the path we are on right now,” which is considering a long-term program for streateries in the city.
Howard added that she traveled to Portland, Ore., last weekend, where access to streateries made it much easier for her, as an immunocompromised person, to enjoy dining out.
During the public comment period later in the evening, a retailer stepped up to speak: Pat Louderback, owner of Getables on Water Street.
“I think [streateries] should sunset,” he said, especially since he frequently sees the outdoor tables empty.
When he peeks out, he catches sight of drivers circling the block in a search for parking. The nearby streatery, meanwhile, has maybe one party using it.
“I think comments people made should not be blown off,” Louderback added.
Faber, after the public comment period ended, responded to him: “I want to apologize,” he said.
“My statements with regard to the comments in the survey were not meant to suggest we disregard the comments, just that we don’t take that as the end-all be-all.”
The City Council’s next meeting will again have streateries on its agenda. Possible changes to city code, to allow for long-term streatery permits, have been scheduled for discussion during that meeting at 6:30 p.m. April 18.
To find out about attending in person or online, see cityofPT.us and click on Government and then Agendas & Minutes.
That’s also the site for viewing the video of this past Monday’s meeting and reading the survey responses, which are on the April 4 agenda under “Discussion of Streatery Principles and Public Feedback.”
Jefferson County Senior Reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or firstname.lastname@example.org.