Friday, May 21, 2021

City Council, May 24th - New Parklet and Street Dining Regulations

Also on Council agenda for Monday is a proposed renewal and extension of a "Sidewalk Café/On-Street Platform Program."

In the body of the Staff Report, and in the new guideline booklet, they talk about "parklets," but the main title of the agenda item is about "platforms," and the City slips between the two. That is interesting and perhaps a small item of concern.

Cover and interior page from the new City guidelines

It is not obvious that the new standards are meant to be easy and convenient, however. It looks, in fact, like it could be a bit of a Potemkin program, something the City can "say" is available, but which has enough red tape and cost that few will actually use it.

Jeff Speck in Walkable City Rules

From the Staff Report:

Outdoor dining is very popular with diners and restaurants, and the City has received numerous requests for a program and a process to allow restaurants to continue to use dining platforms in parking spaces after the end of COVID restrictions. There are currently fifteen businesses using on-street parking spaces for expanded dining....

The Sidewalk Café/On-Street Platform Program will replace the current temporary use of on-street parking spaces for expanded seating. Beginning September 30, 2021, removal of on-street parking spaces will only be approved for platforms....Businesses currently occupying on-street parking spaces for expanded seating will be notified a minimum of sixty days in advance that the City intends to discontinue allowing on-street parking spaces for tents or expanded seating in on-street parking spaces in the Fall of 2021. Only businesses with approved Revocable Licenses will be allowed to utilize on-street parking spaces for outdoor seating on a platform after September 30, 2021.

The City proposes additional guidelines and fees (not all shown here):

  • No more than six percent (6%) of the downtown on-street parking inventory of 1,106 parking spaces can be utilized by platforms at any one time. These 66 spaces would accommodate all dining currently occurring in parking spaces and accommodate a small amount of expansion.
  • Any platform constructed prior to the approval of this Program and City platform design options will be expected to make reasonable modifications to conform with adopted design requirements and safety standards.
  • An annual fee will be required effective July 1, 2022. The fee structure is anticipated to align with the costs of an existing monthly construction permit, which is $150/mo.

All in all, this looks like the City may be making the program more difficult rather than less.

Hopefully restaurateurs will weigh in on how easy or difficult this proposed renewal will be. Maybe the regulatory details and fees are not burdensome, but they look a little suspicious.

Also on the agenda, previously discussed, the Geer Park Master Plan.

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