Mayor proposes extending parklet program, permanently blocking off part of Pine Ave

Mayor Robert Garcia is pushing to extend a coronavirus relief program that let restaurants and other businesses set up temporary parklets on public property, and he’s asking to permanently block off at least one street that has been closed to cars off as part of the initiative.

The Long Beach City Council previously set an expiration date of Oct. 31. for its Open Streets Initiative, but in a notice on the council’s Sept. 15 agenda, Garcia is recommending the council ask the City Manager to extend the program through the end of 2020 and make some parklets permanent, including a stretch of Pine Avenue between Broadway and Third Street that’s been closed to vehicle traffic.

“Our open streets plan has been a huge success and I’ve heard directly from restaurant owners and the community who love these new outdoor spaces,” Garcia said. “Moving forward we can work to transition to quality parklet spaces that can enhance the streetscape and provide critical support to our business community.”

The move is expected to cost $300,000 through the end of this year, which would come out of the $40.3 million the city received from the federal government via the CARES Act.

“Any additional fiscal or other risk impacts of any permanent changes or other costs beyond the end of 2020 will need to be identified and brought back to City Council prior to any action to proceed,” according to Garcia’s request.

The move comes as some 110-plus parklet/open street spaces have been created across the city for both restaurants and neighborhoods. Many restaurant owners say they not only want but need the parklet space to get by economically. Restaurateurs say their patrons now expect and rely on the parklets.

“What’s been created is a change to the dining experience,” said K.C. Branaghan’s owner Ryan Hoover to the Post last month. “Beforehand, most people were content with indoor dining: A little seating, a bar over there, some fresh windows… But with people continuously going outside now, it’s completely changed what people expect within dining. What these parklets have created is a standard, and the possibility of having that rug pulled from beneath us is a travesty.”

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