Outdoor dining program will end, but Long Beach may approve some permanent parklets • Long Beach Post News

The vote came after hours of testimony from some residents who said the facilities were an eyesore turned into a public nuisance in the form of traffic hazards, loud noises and, in some cases, public urination.

Restaurant owners argued that the scheme had allowed them to survive and that they were still a necessary part of the city’s dining scene given that some customers preferred to sit outside due to the pandemic.

Ryan Hoover, the owner of KC Branaghan’s in Naples and a member of the Long Beach Restaurant Association, said the program was a godsend, but with thousands of COVID-19 cases still reported daily and reports another mask mandate could be enacted at the county level, the program should be expanded.

“I think it’s a little too early to close the door on this program,” Hoover said.

Jeff Cozart, owner of the Belmont Athletic Club, said he was 100% behind the program at the start of the pandemic, but said now is the time to end the program to free up the vital parking spaces all of which Second Street businesses need for their customers. .

“Now we all need what we all share,” Cozart said. “It really is that simple.”

Approximately 52 parking spaces are currently used by parklets, representing approximately 10% of all available street space along Second Street.

Following Tuesday’s vote by City Council, businesses with existing temporary parklets will have until June 20 to notify the city of their interest in making outdoor facilities permanent and the city will notify them before the program end date if their location is eligible, meaning they do not pose a hazard to traffic or block utility lines or other city infrastructure.

Previous reports that a business’s parklet was a public nuisance could also be factored into the city’s approval of a permit for a permanent plot. Those who are eligible and applied before August could operate their temporary structures until September, but ineligible locations and those who show no interest in making their sites permanent will have until mid-July to remove them.

Other non-parklet installations, such as those installed in public or private car parks, may request an extension until the end of September.

At the peak of the program, there were approximately 300 parklets, sidewalk restaurants or other outdoor dining facilities in parking lots and other non-public areas that allowed businesses to open and serve customers when health orders prohibited meals inside.

That number has dropped to 120 such locations, many of which are expected to disappear after the program ends at the end of the month.

Joy Contreras, spokeswoman for Long Beach Public Works, said sites would still need to be assessed by the department to make sure they comply with laws protecting people with disabilities and don’t present a hazard to the traffic or block other city infrastructure. such as storm drains or bus stops.

Even then, getting approval for a permanent parklet won’t be as simple as getting city approval, Contreras said. For parts of the city in the coastal area, such as Belmont Shore, parklets will also need to obtain a Coastal Development Permit through a separate process administered by the city.

So far, about 30 companies have expressed interest in wanting to operate a permanent park beyond the city’s current program. Seventeen of them are along Second Street in Belmont Shore, where the highest concentration of parklets has existed for two years and where the program’s most vocal opponents have called for its end.

“We have more parklets in our 14 blocks than anyone in any other district,” said Dede Rossi, longtime director of the Belmont Shore Business Association.

Rossi, who returned to his post in a temporary role earlier this year, and said the temporary parklets were controversial because parking issues are usually found at Belmont Shore.

Parklets have helped some businesses generate more weekend revenue because they have more space to seat people, and Rossi believes a handful will eventually go ahead with permanent installations.

However, non-restaurant owners want their parking lot back and feel they’ve given restaurant owners enough breathing space over the past two years, Rossi said. Rossi isn’t against permanent parklets, but said some businesses shouldn’t be encouraged while applications are being reviewed or processed.

“I think it’s only fair that if one goes, they should all go,” Rossi said of the proposed elimination of parklets. “Even if they ask for permits.”

Melinda Cotton has lived in Belmont Shore since 1983 and said parking has always been a problem, but the introduction of parklets has exacerbated the shortage of parking spaces and forced customers who could park on Second Street to park in the residential streets instead.

“We’re basically the parking lot of Saint and Second, we always have been,” Cotton said.

Cotton, a member of the Belmont Shore Residents Association, said parklets have also created problems for people with disabilities who sometimes have to navigate sidewalks, and for public transport, as delivery trucks sometimes use designated areas for buses to park and unload their products at restaurants. .

A group named “Parking, not Parklets” circulated a petition to present to council on Tuesday evening to show support for the removal of all temporary parklets and a ban on the approval of new permanent parklets.

Cotton said there was historical precedent for blocking them, pointing to a 2012 decision to prevent George’s Greek Cafe from building a parklet in front of its Second Street location.

While more than 17 Belmont Shore businesses may ultimately apply for a permanent parklet, Cotton said the group has a number he would like to see.

“Zero, for the shoreline,” Cotton said. “But we’re not trying to tell other parts of town what to do.”

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