Posted: Friday Jun 18 2021 6:47 AM
These are small movements. You come out of the gate, into any street, and suddenly, turning from side to side, there is a bar terrace. You cross the street, and another. And, across the street, where there was also a parking lot.
It is not a dystopia. This is what the capital of Spain is experiencing as the economic recovery from COVID-19 slows. Terraces have invaded the streets, but also politics, since Isabel Díaz Ayuso led an electoral campaign basing part of Madrid’s identity on bars, terraces and cañas.
In Madrid, according to data from the council itself, there are currently 6,400. This means that for every square kilometer there are more than 10 terraces. And everything indicates that it will go further: This same week, the mayor himself, the popular José Luis Martínez-Almeida, has already announced that all those who had been installed since the pandemic in establishments that did not previously have one , will be able to stay, at least, until 2022. And in a few days, they will play a fundamental role with the reopening of nightlife.
This is something new. Madrid goes with terraces like no other city does. COVID-19 has only accelerated a process that worries experts. “Paris, for example, has completely rethought mobility in the city, and Madrid is the only city in the world of its size that has fallen behind,” sighs Álvaro Ardura, architect-urban planner, professor at the Escuela Técnica Superior in Madrid. architecture and co-author of First We Take Manhattan: The Creative Destruction of Cities (Waterfall).
Around 6,000 jobs and 2,000 businesses depend on terraces
A lot of things depend on the terraces in Madrid. Starting with around 6,000 jobs and 2,000 businesses, according to the Hostelería Madrid association. But also the rest of the neighbors, who, organized and in conversation with laSexta.com, demanded that the Town Hall does not live in “a fairground”, but rather can take advantage of its streets as pedestrians. “There was already an overload of sidewalk terraces before the pandemic, with which, if some had not been passed to parking spaces, they would have been impassable in many sections,” says Ardura.
Rest or work, a “tug of war”
Experts agree: “We agree to allow spaces, more in the context of a pandemic, but not that this is done to the detriment of pedestrians. It must be by gaining ground on the road or parked vehicles ”, explains Alba Navarrete, urban planner of the urban and territorial consultancy firm Traza Territorio to this chain.
Above all, because a terrace may seem trivial, but it is not. “The imagination of public space itself is changing. Before, sidewalks were designed as a space for mobility, circulation, and now they are privatized spaces ”. And, for this reason, it is increasingly rare to see children playing in the streets, elderly people walking, adolescents living their life or functionally diverse citizens who can move around normally. And they are so important that the City of Madrid itself had to create a municipal commission exclusively dedicated to them.
After confinement, the street and the outdoors became the main object of desire. And, in Madrid, almost a basic need: 20.3% of houses are interiors
“Here is the tug of war,” city planner Antonio Giraldo smiles across the phone. “Being an exceptional circumstance due to the pandemic, we all gave in a bit. But the fact of extending and enlarging the terraces on the public road can generate several conflicts. Because public space belongs to everyone and is granted for the benefit of the Town Hall. Due to the pandemic, we demand more public space ”.
It’s true: after spending three months in home confinement, the street, the great outdoors, squares and boulevards have become the main object of desire. Especially in big cities. And, in Madrid, almost a basic need, since in the capital there are 20.3% of the houses that are interiors: that is to say, they do not have windows facing the street. This is a figure well above the national average, which stands at 7.9%, as a study by Idealista shows.
Perhaps, for this reason, no one whines the love of the Madrilenian on the terrace. Although there are more and more … and they are not so pleasant when they threaten the rest of the citizens.
Requirements for terraces
But, to install a terrace in the city of Madrid, for example, it is necessary to meet certain basic requirements, collected in the Ordinance on Terraces and Kiosks of Hotels and Restaurants, approved in 2013. And the tables outside can be temporary – only in good weather – or permanent.
For there to be a terrace, there must be at least 2.5m wide for the pedestrian crossing and not take a break on the sidewalk
The terraces are arranged longitudinally along the edge of the sidewalk, in front of the facade of the establishment and, where appropriate, that of the adjoining ones, specifies the legislation. The width of free passage for pedestrians may not be less than 2.50 meters, respecting a continuous route, avoiding breaks along a block line.
It should also be remembered that the occupancy cannot exceed 50 percent of the width of the space where the terraces are installed, and that the space between consecutive terraces must be at least 1.50 meters. However, one only has to take a tour of certain neighborhoods in Madrid to realize that this is not always true.
Schedule … and let sleep
Sources from the Directorate General of Territorial Coordination of Madrid City Council specify that the terrace hours are set by the Community of Madrid and by the City Council. The COVID terraces close at 00:00, by resolution 61 of the Terraces Commission, and can no longer open.
The others must close at 01:00 at the latest, and in no case may admit new customers after 00:00, respecting the closing time that they have authorized by the competent authorities if it is earlier than said time and in in any case, by subjecting the exercise of the activity to the maximum opening and closing hours of the establishment to which they are accomplices. “Outside of these hours, the terraces cannot be opened beyond. It is not the hotelier’s choice, ”they emphasize.
The Environment study justifies the expansion of the COVID terraces due to “the health and economic emergency”
With the doubling of the number of terraces in town, noise pollution has also increased. So much so that the municipal council had to carry out an assessment requested by the Zone Délégués de Coordination Territoriale à l’Environnement et à la Mobilité.
Said study, to which LaSexta had access, justifies the authorization of the expansion of the COVID terraces until 2022 “in view of the prolongation of the exceptional situation, and because of the health and economic emergency”, but those which actually occupy the car parking spaces, “they can only be requested until August 31” because “there is a marked parking deficit”.
The Madrid City Council recognizes that “it is indisputable that the operation of a terrace and the conversations of its users involve an acoustic affection in its environment, since the activity takes place in the external environment and not in a closed equipped area. isolation measures. . This condition increases very significantly when the terrace is in operation at night, a particularly sensitive period because it coincides with the rest of most people ”.
And outside of these hours? There are areas of the city where the terraces have invaded the sidewalks. “Economic urgency is preferred over urban criteria. In addition, with terraces that warm the air or authentic terraced streets, like Calle Ponzano ”, admits town planner Alba Navarrete.
Ponzano is a ‘street-terrace’, an area saturated with hospitality
“Ponzano is an area saturated with hotel activities”, sums up lvaro Ardura, “and on which measures should be taken such as the special acoustic protection zone that operates throughout the Centro district, so that 800 chairs are not concentrated in the same street ”.
Although it is this specific case, the problem is not that of the pandemic. “It already existed before COVID, with bars and their indoor activity. The same is happening as what happened before with the Bajos de Aurrerá in Gaztambide [los conocidos Bajos de Argüelles]”.
The street, spanish
However, being on the streets is natural. A very Spanish trait on which we have built our identity and our relationship. Also, of course, associated with recreation.
“You have to ask yourself if it is punishable to drink alcohol on the public highway, but it is not punishable if it is on a terrace. The underlying message is: take advantage of public space, but sit down, consume, ”says town planner Antonio Giraldo. “He invites you instead of giving you an alternative.
Being on the street is natural. A very Spanish trait on which we have built our identity and our relationship with each other.
This way of life, in the eyes of Professor Ardura, generates a “greater handicap” compared to other countries. “There are streets dedicated to recreation in other countries, but, for example, in the Anglo-Saxon context, fewer people live in city centers. This mixture of uses is more characteristic of continental and Mediterranean Europe ”.
So the terrace, which only looked like a set of chairs and tables, turned out to be a polyhedron on which to display whatever model of city we want. In the case of the City of Madrid, acting as arbiter between living and consuming. But, with the countdown to pandemic measures, there is a question to be asked: what kind of city do we dream of … and if it is going to be infected with terraces.