Community approval may no longer be needed for permanent parklets

How much community input will factor into new permanent parklets could change as the Long Beach City Council is set to vote on removing a requirement that business owners seek the consent of community organizations before applying to the city.

Parklets allowed restaurants and others to conduct business during COVID-19 restrictions that disallowed indoor dining and other indoor activities. Over 100 temporary parklets sprung up across Long Beach, and after several extensions of the temporary parklet program, the council voted to end it in January 2023.

While many of the temporary installations have come down, those that are in the process of applying for permanent structure can keep theirs up through the new year.

Councilmember Suzie Price is asking that a 2018 ordinance that outlined the process for applying for a permanent parklet to be changed so that community input is one factor, and not the determining factor, for a business seeking to build one.

In a letter to the council, Price said that the language in the permanent parklet ordinance doesn’t align with the original intent of the council, which was to have community input be part of the process.

“Community group input should be one of the factors to be considered during the application process, not the final decision,” Price said in her letter.

Price, who recently lost a bid to become the city’s next mayor and will leave office later this month, represents southeast Long Beach, which includes Belmont Shore, an area where some residents have been vocal in their opposition to the parklets that are present on Second Street.

The area is one of the few designated by the city as parking impacted because of its narrow streets and business corridor that is flush with bars, restaurants and retail options that can make finding a place to park difficult for visitors and residents.

Several restaurants along the corridor have applications being reviewed by the city, including Panama Joe’s, Legends Sports Bar, Open Sesame and George’s Greek Cafe, according to a list of applicants provided to the Post.

Over a dozen businesses in Belmont Shore and neighboring Naples have applications in but whether they’ll be approved will rely on a number of factors including whether they’re ADA compliant, their location relative to public utilities and if they’ve been deemed safe by the city’s traffic engineer.

If Price’s request is approved by the council, neighborhood group support would no longer be a requirement, something that opponents say is wrong.

“They’ve already had a giveaway of public space and now they want to have another giveaway of a parking space,” said Melinda Cotton, a longtime resident of the neighborhood and member of the Belmont Shore Residents Association.

Cotton has been one of the loudest critics of the parklets, saying they not only take away necessary parking spaces but also pose other issues because they force delivery trucks to block traffic or bus stops when delivering goods to businesses because the parklets prohibit them from pulling up to the curb.

She said that taking the community’s voice away from the approval process was “just wrong.”

“I think any neighborhood group in the city should look at this and say ‘What’s going on here?’” Cotton said.

Second Street is unique because it’s in the Coastal Zone, which is generally the part of the city south of Broadway that is under the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission. Parklet applications for sites in the Coastal Zone could require those businesses to gain an additional layer of approval from the commission before moving forward.

Permanent parklets can cost tens of thousands of dollars for businesses to construct because they must meet certain design standards for safety and aesthetics and businesses must also carry special insurance to cover the spaces that are typically located near passing traffic.

Despite the city having a list of about 30 businesses currently seeking a permanent parklet, it’s unclear how many of those will actually move forward with one. The City Council is expected to vote on whether to amend the language in the permanent parklet ordinance at its Dec. 6 meeting, which starts at 5 p.m..

Here’s where parklets in Long Beach could become permanent

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.
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