You may have noticed a significant change in the layout of streets across Long Beach: bright orange or white plastic walls laid out in front of a business, creating additional outdoor dining or even office space in the form of parklets, or across intersections to block roads to vehicular traffic, like the closure of Linden Avenue from South Street to Harding Street in North Long Beach.
And many have been wondering: Who approved all these closures?
They are a part of the city’s Open Streets Initiative, proposed mid-pandemic and approved by the council in July, overseen and ultimately implemented by the city’s Public Works Department through an online proposal system—one for businesses, one for neighborhoods—that was enacted after the measure was approved.
“Many of the inquiries we receive are in locations that do not meet our city’s public safety standards or do not align with the program goals, so all inquiries received go through an extensive vetting process,” said Jennifer Carey, a spokesperson for Public Works. “Those that are determined to be safe and feasible are added to our Open Streets map, which we continuously add new locations to this real-time map as our vetting process is completed.”
The map shows both approved projects—one can see everything from the 80-plus restaurants and small businesses that are currently using equipment to make temporary parklets to existing street closures that includes parts of Hill Street in West Long Beach and Molina Avenue in East Long Beach—and in-the-process of proposal—such as more ambitious projects like a proposed closure of Pine Avenue from Pacific Coast Highway all the way to Willow Street.
Public Works, according to Carey, has been asking residents to weigh in on existing proposals while also proposing their own through both the online portals and online community meetings to collect feedback, whether it be for or against proposed neighborhood open streets.
“The purpose of the Open Streets program as a whole is to provide support to both residents and businesses during COVID-19 by providing more open space to allow for physical distancing,” Carey said. “For businesses, this comes in the form of parklets that can be utilized for outdoor dining or other services to support their operations. For neighborhoods, this program is meant to provide neighbors with more open space to take part in physically-distanced outdoor activities, such as bicycling, rollerblading, playing catch, etc. We are aware that not all residents feel comfortable venturing too far from their home during this time and may not have immediate access to a park or open space, so this provides us an opportunity to create that space nearby in the interim.”
The program is expected to run through to Oct. 31 but could be extended based on the physical distance guidelines as that date more closely approaches.
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