With some commissioners split on how parking in Belmont Shore would be affected, the Long Beach Planning Commissioners voted 3-1 Thursday night to deny an appeal that sought to block the popular Lebanese restaurant, Open Sesame, from building an outdoor dining parklet.
Open Sesame is one of a handful of restaurants along Second Street that are seeking to construct permanent parklets on the busy Belmont Shore corridor, something that has roiled a group of residents worried about an existing parking shortage and accessibility issues for pedestrians.
Commissioner Alvaro Castillo sided with the group, which is called Parking Not Parklets. He said Belmont Shore was not an appropriate place for these kinds of outdoor dining extensions.
“In this area, in this location, I don’t think it’s appropriate to cannibalize existing parking,” Castillo said before voting in favor of the appeal, which would have blocked construction. “Not because we don’t need to be more dependent on public mass transit, but because it is ineffective in this area.”
The proposed parklet would eliminate two public parking spaces along Second Street, similar to another parklet the commission approved in August for Legends Sports Bar that will convert two parking spaces into an outdoor dining space.
Open Sesame’s proposed parklet would be about 250 square feet and seat an additional 17 people.
In making his case for the parklet, Commissioner Michael Clemson pointed to the city’s climate action plan that calls for a reduction of driving in the city by 25% to help meet the city’s climate goals by 2030.
“If we’re arguing over two parking spaces, I don’t understand how we’re going to meet those goals,” Clemson said before voting to deny the appeal.
Now that the appeal has been denied, a new public posting is required at the site of the parklet. If anyone opposes the parklet in writing within the 30-day notice period the City Council will have the final say on whether the permit for the parklet is approved.
Brian Cochrane, a member of Parking Not Parklets, said there are existing violations that the city does not police like sandwich boards on the sidewalks and bikes and pets being tethered to outdoor dining areas that could compound the parklet’s encroachment into the public right of way.
Cochrane said that managers and employees should have to keep patrons off the sidewalks and make sure they’re not blocking the walkways when seating patrons or taking orders.
Cochrane also pointed to a California Coastal Commission decision earlier this year in San Diego that requires businesses in the coastal zone pursuing a parklet to replace any parking spaces they convert to outdoor dining space.
Long Beach does not have that requirement and while Open Sesame and the rest of the Second Street corridor are also in the Coastal Zone, it’s in a part where the city has final say over development permits. Thursday’s vote or potential City Council ruling on the issue cannot be appealed to the Coastal Commission.
Commissioners added language to the conditions of approval to make it more clear that restaurant staff should “actively” discourage guests from blocking public walkways or otherwise violating the terms of the parklet’s approval.
Like other parklets approved by the city, this one must have signage posted indicating that it’s a public space and anyone can use it even if they’re not patronizing the restaurant.
Other restaurants on Second Street seeking to build outdoor parklets are Taco Shore, George’s Greek Cafe, Panama Joe’s and Aroma di Roma, according to a city presentation given to the commission Thursday.