BERKELEY -- In an effort to make dining and sipping coffee in the city's Gourmet Ghetto a little more civilized, businesses are asking the city to surrender some street parking spaces for sitting and lounging.

The idea of "parklets" has gained traction in San Francisco and Oakland where city officials have embraced the idea as a way of creating more outdoor space, said Heather Hensley, executive director of the North Shattuck Association whose organization is helping business organize behind the idea.

As Hensley envisions them, each business could design its own space in a parking space in front of the establishment.

"We would have a wooden or metal structure outlining one or two parking spaces and a platform," Hensley said. "You use a rubber bumper so that if a car backs up they don't back into it. It would be a combination of seating and bike parking. Mostly, what it would be is landscaping that could include greenery and each business would have a different idea of what it would be."

In the north Shattuck Avenue area, where long lines snaking out of the Cheese Board Collective crowd the sidewalk and where people sit on the grass in the middle of the street to eat, parklets could be the answer, Hensley said.

"We do have a problem with the line at the Cheese Board," she said. "Hopefully, the city will respond and we'll be able to move forward."

The City Council in July shot down a proposal by Councilman Laurie Capitelli, whose district includes the area, to get the ball rolling because there was no approval process in place and departments like fire, transportation and public works had not given it the green light, city officials said.

One of the biggest obstacles is money. Giving businesses use of city-owned metered parking spaces reduces revenue.

Businesses in the area do not want to have to pay the city to replace the lost revenue from parking meters, Hensley said.

Eric Angstadt, Berkeley director of planning and development who has been charged with devising an approval process for the parklets, said that when he was planning director in Oakland, the City Council there simply added a metered parking space elsewhere in the city for each one taken away by parklets. Oakland initially approved seven such spaces, he said.

Angstadt said he has been given no timeline on when to finish the framework for an approval process, but added, "it's obviously heating up now."

"We're going to do some work on it next week to figure out how to accept and review applications and figure out what standards we would use for approval or denial," Angstadt said.

Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.