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Display Merchandise


What You Need To Know

In order to enhance the viability of retail establishments in the commercial district, the City has established a process that would allow retail business owners to display some of their merchandise on a portion of the sidewalk in front of their business under Order 166,458.  To balance safety and accessibility with commercial prosperity, the City has established the following requirements for all business owners who wish to obtain a revocable street-use permit to display merchandise on the sidewalk in front of their retail business establishment:

  • Display merchandise can be placed only on the sidewalk in front of the retail establishment applying for permit. 

  • The sidewalk in front of the business must be wide enough such that a minimum of six feet of pedestrian clearance, which must be free of all obstacles, can be established. 

  • Placement of display merchandise on the sidewalk must not in any way interfere with curb ramps, access to the building, driveways or access to any fire escape. 

  • Placement of display merchandise on the sidewalk must conform to all Federal, State, and Local laws and regulations. 

  • Applicants can now renew permits and pay renewal invoices over the internet. 


Design Guidelines

Placement of display merchandise on the sidewalk must conform to the following design guidelines:

  • The top of the display, including stand and merchandise must be at least two and a half feet above the sidewalk. The top of the display may not be more than 3'-10" above the sidewalk nor more than 2 feet or 25% of the width of the sidewalk in front of the building (whichever is less). 

  • Display of fruits and vegetables must be protected by an awning, which must extend a minimum of 6 inches beyond the full length and width of display racks. 

  • The finish materials used for display merchandise must be smooth, nonabsorbent and cleanable. 


Applicants must submit the following with their application:

  1.  Complete Display Merchandise Permit Application

  2. A site plan showing: 

    1. Entrance to business and other building entrances. 

    2. Property lines, sidewalk width and all surface obstructions within 15 feet of occupied area (e.g. fire hydrants, streetlights, parking meters, etc). 

    3. Width of occupied area, full dimensions and material (finish paint, laminate, aluminum, plywood, etc) of the display stand and awnings with their relative proximity with 6-foot pedestrian clearance. 

  3. An itemized list of merchandise intended to be displayed. 

  4. Copy of S.F. Business License

  5. A one time non-refundable processing fee payable to Public Works. See Fee Schedule

  6.  Submit evidence of general liability insurance, a Certificate of Insurance for the business with minimum of $2,000,000 general aggregate and specifically naming “The City and County of San Francisco, its officers, officials, employees, agents, and volunteers” as additional insured. (Sample)


Application Approval Process

  • Once it is determined that an applicant has met all the basic requirements, the application is sent to the Department of Public Health (DPH) for review if the requested display merchandise includes food. 

  • As soon as the application is cleared by DPH, Public Works will issue a Public Notice, advising the public that a Permit that would allow the subject retail establishment to display merchandise in the sidewalk area is about to be issued. 

  • The applicant will be required to post a copy of the Public Notice in a readily visible place on the frontage of the applying business establishment for ten calendar days. (sample

  • If there are no objections from the public, the application will be approved and a Revocable Street-Use Permit will be issued. 

  • Applicant shall pay an annual permit processing fee plus inspection fee per square foot of sidewalk area occupied. 

  • If there are objections from the public, a Public Hearing will be scheduled. Approval or denial of the application would be determined at the Public Hearing. 

  • In the event of a denial, the applicant may appeal to the Board of Permit Appeals within 15 calendar days of the decision. 

  • When a permit is issued, a copy must be displayed visibly at the subject business establishment. 


Responsibilities of Permit Holders

In order maintain this Revocable Street-Use Permit, the permit holder must comply with all applicable rules and regulations which include the following:

  1. Permit holder is responsible for making sure that all activities on the sidewalk stay within the approved area. 

  2. Merchandise displayed in sidewalk area shall be the same displayed inside the retail establishment. 

  3. All transactions shall occur only inside the retail establishment. 

  4. All cut fruit, shelled nuts, raisins and other dried fruits are not allowed for display in sidewalk area. 

  5. All display stands shall be promptly removed from the sidewalk in accordance with approved time of operation each and everyday. 

  6. Permit holder shall maintain the storefront, exterior walls, sidewalk and gutter in a clean condition at all times. Sidewalks shall be washed daily at locations with food displays and as needed at others. 

  7. Shopping carts are not allowed in sidewalk area except at locations where the sidewalk clearance is 8 feet or more. 

  8. Active deliveries are not allowed in the sidewalk area after 10 am. 

  9. No garbage may be stored on any portion of the sidewalk. Garbage receptacles, which must be tightly closed, may be placed on sidewalk for pick-up after 6:00 p.m. on the day prior to pick-up. 

  10. Sidewalk areas may not be painted, landscaped or altered in anyway without prior approval of Public Works. 

  11. Permit holder must keep in force the liability insurance in which the City and County of San Francisco is named as additional insured as long as the permit is in effect. 

  12. Permit holder must display a copy of the Permit visibly for public view during business hours. 

  13. All permit holders must request for renewal not later than 30 days prior to the expiration date of this revocable street-use permit.


All applicants who can comply with all the above guidelines are encouraged to submit an application for permit to:

San Francisco Public Works • Bureau of Street-Use & Mapping 
1155 Market Street, 3rd Floor • San Francisco, CA 94103 • Map
Telephone : (415) 554-5810   Fax: (415) 554-6161
Office Hours : 7:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Monday through Friday, except official holidays

Note: all cash and check transactions must be submitted before 4:00 p.m.


Compliance vs Penalties

The City and business owners must work together to maintain a balance between the City's obligation to protect the safety of the public and business prosperity. It would be ideal if we have the cooperation of all the businesses and there is full compliance. To be fair, businesses that are found to be non-compliant with the provisions of this permit will be issued a citation in accordance with the appropriate sections of the Public Works code. Every infraction is punishable by a fine not to exceed:

  • $100.00 for display stands not in compliance with permitted design, with Permits not visibly posted, unclean sidewalk and gutter area and sidewalk area painted, landscaped or altered without permit. 

  • $200.00 for operation without a valid Permit, obstruction of minimum pedestrian clearance, displaying merchandise different from the ones displayed inside the establishment, violating approved times of operation and non compliance with Local, State and Federal laws governing accessibility as may apply to this permit.