Legends Restaurant and Sports Bar and Belmont Brewing Company received preliminary approvals on Monday for their permanent parklet applications, but residents are expected to appeal the outdoor dining areas.
During a zoning administration hearing, the two longtime Belmont Shore businesses had their parklet proposals approved by Development Services officials, with stipulations like requiring outdoor service to end by 10 p.m., forbidding structures like umbrellas or heaters from being used and requiring signage that declares the area free for public use, even if the person doesn’t make a purchase.
Parklets in the Belmont Shore area have been a contentious issue in the shoreline adjacent community over the past few years with businesses successfully lobbying for multiple extensions of the temporary parklet program as a means to help weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Some residents, meanwhile, say the structures are a public nuisance because they block sidewalk access and take up valuable parking space.
All temporary parklets were required to come down citywide earlier this year but the list of businesses seeking permanent structures has grown. In Belmont Shore, that number is 13, with Legends and Belmont Brewing Company among them.
Residents again cast the applications as a “land grab” that had little benefit to residents in the city and big benefits to the businesses requesting them.
“In addition, these grabbers get exclusive use of extra property free of extra property taxes,” said Corliss Lee, an East Long Beach resident who urged denial of the permit.
While city staff members said that the two installations would not negatively affect parking—Belmont Brewing’s parklet would be on a public right of way that is not used as a street—some said that the approvals Monday could amount to a precedent-setting event that could see all parklet applications approved, which could take away up to 18 spots in a community that is notorious for its scarce parking.
“It’s the sum total of these, and as other people have said, the aggregate total is important to look at,” said Brian Cochran, a Belmont Shore resident opposed to both projects.
The Belmont Brewing Company installation would be located outside of its main entrance, measuring approximately 521 square feet and large enough to accommodate 16 tables and 35 additional patrons.
Legends’ parklet would sit outside its storefront where its temporary structure previously sat, but would be required to be built out of more sturdy, and aesthetically pleasing materials compared to the traffic guardrails that were used during the pandemic.
The 301-square-foot parklet would take up two existing parking spaces to create room for 20 more seats.
Legends’ owners would also be required to pay for the lost parking meter revenue used by the Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Area Advisory Commission to pay for things like new trashcans, power washing of sidewalks and other maintenance along the corridor. Matt Peterson, co-owner of Legends, is the chair of that commission.
Tim Moriarty, an area resident, said he supported the projects because it would be good for business in the area and questioned the motivations of others opposed to both the parklet applications.
“I refer to these people as ‘CAVE’ people,” Moriarty said. “They are citizens against virtually everything.”
The two projects can be appealed but to two different governing bodies. The Legends parklet could be appealed to the Planning Commission but the Belmont Brewing parklet would have to be appealed to the California Coastal Commission because of its proximity to the water.
A separate appeal window has yet to begin.
The City Council voted in January to amend the language in its permanent parklet ordinance to lessen the ability of the public to block a permit from being issued but added language that would trigger an automatic City Council hearing to decide if a business is granted a permanent parklet permit.
Businesses seeking a permanent parklet have to post a public notice and any opposition received during the required 30-day window that the notices are up would send the issue to the council under the amended rules. Those postings have yet to go up.
Julie Dean, a Belmont Shore resident who has been opposed to the expansion of parklets in the area for a number of reasons, specifically the affect on those with disabilities, said she wasn’t sure which group would appeal which project but said both would likely face challenges from residents.
The loss of the parking spaces where the parklets are located is a much smaller issue than how many more parking spaces will be needed for additional customers, Dean said.
“That means there are more parking spaces needed for 20 more patrons and more staffing needed to serve them, who also need to park,” she said, adding nobody has really focused on that element.
The appeal period for the Planning Commission is 10 days and 20 days for the Coastal Commission. Both appeal windows will start at the same time, according to city staff.
Long Beach limits role of community input in issuing parklet permits