Fremont’s General Plan, a long-range planning document adopted in 2011, outlines a vision to make the city more strategically urban. Appropriately, much of today’s planning conversations focus on “all things urban.” As the second largest city in the Bay Area (90 square miles!), Fremont has made great strides in accomplishing this goal.

Over the years, City staff have undertaken a variety of initiatives, including focused efforts on development of a downtown as well as supporting our existing business districts — areas that have many desirable qualities and are home to unique neighborhoods that give Fremont that high-quality-of-life brand it is known for.

These districts are gathering places for our community. We are enhancing the City’s place-making efforts to help cultivate new projects and initiatives that will strengthen Fremont’s business districts. For example, we became a member of the National Main Street movement in 2019, and since then have been working closely with California Main Street Association to identify resources and spread the word about Fremont’s unique districts to the rest of the world.

Our newest, noteworthy initiative to support vibrant districts is the streamlining of the City’s Sidewalk Dining policy which will help improve and enliven our Main Streets.

Prior to the streamlining effort, the process and cost involved were not conducive for the local business community to apply for sidewalk dining permits. Based on this feedback, we were determined to make the process simpler. Staff reviewed procedures in place and analyzed redundancies to introduce a new sidewalk dining program that not only cuts down approval time and cost considerably (from $4,600 to just $500 to be exact) but also introduces a simple over-the-counter approval process.

The new program is already making it easier for restaurants to increase the number of tables they can serve at a time and will enliven streets and create spaces where people want to spend time.

Meet Joe’s Corner – a restaurant and historic bar in the Niles District, and the first business to take advantage of the new sidewalk dining policy.

“We are really excited to see the new streamlined process. The drastically reduced permit fee as well as the lightweight approval process are certainly a blessing and would encourage many big and small restaurants to start offering sidewalk dining. It is a game-changer for small restaurants like ours.” – Neelam Chakrabarty, Joe’s Corner

Sidewalk dining provides benefits for the participating restaurants, residents, and surrounding businesses alike. Seating outside expands the square footage of the dining area which, in turn, allows for more customers to be served at once, leading to a faster turnover of tables and larger revenues. Additionally, more customers may be drawn in by the view from the street of people enjoying their meal. This atmosphere makes the whole retail area more vibrant, which may encourage people to spend time in the area or to stay longer, ultimately aiding surrounding businesses. We refer to this phenomenon as a positive feedback loop that creates a sense of place in our retail environments.

Through initiatives like these, we are able to better support local business owners who have lived in Fremont their entire lives as well as bring in new businesses to achieve the right mix of culture, industry, tradition, and community.

We invite you to take advantage of and spread the word about Fremont’s new sidewalk dining policy, and keep an eye out for more sidewalk dining cafés around town!