Long Beach’s outdoor parklet program could be extended through June 2022 if the City Council approves a recommendation from Public Works to continue the program that was set to expire at the end of September.

The City Council voted in May to extend the city’s Open Streets program through the end of this month but the persistence of the delta variant and businesses still struggling to recover from the economic carnage brought on by the pandemic is driving the recommendation to extend it.

If the council approves the extension it would bring Long Beach into line with Los Angeles, which extended its outdoor dining program through June 2022 earlier this year.

“While indoor dining has returned, many businesses continue to express interest in retaining their outdoor space to grow economically, hire more employees and maintain flexibility during the uncertainty resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Diko Melkonian, the deputy director of Public Works, wrote in a memo to the City Council.

Melkonian added that extending the program would also provide diners a safe alternative to eating indoors.

While COVID-19 infection rates appear to be on the decline in the city it still has a case rate of 30.2 per 100,000 residents and a test positive rate of 5.7%, which is more than twice Los Angeles County’s test positivity rate of 2.3%. The figures are based on the most recent data updated by the city on Sept. 3.

The rise in cases over the past few months has led a number of cities to enact indoor vaccine policies that require people to provide proof that they’ve been fully vaccinated to enter areas like gyms, bars and restaurants.

Long Beach officials said last month that they were focused on the county’s decision on a potential vaccine mandate but the board of supervisors voted last month to not move ahead with a indoor vaccine requirement despite it being the recommendation of the county’s health director.

Supervisor Janice Hahn, who represents Long Beach and authored the initial request to look into the feasibility of a vaccine policy, said she wasn’t convinced she “wanted to pull the trigger” on a policy given slight declines in COVID-19 infections in the county as of last week.

Other supervisors said that they might revisit the issue after the Labor Day weekend if cases spike again.

Three-quarters of eligible Long Beach residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine but just 64% are fully vaccinated, according to city data.

Extending the city’s Open Streets program would give businesses who want to make their parklets permanent more time to meet specifications established by the city and acquire required insurance policies they’ll need to keep them.

Melkonian’s memo said that the city could still remove some temporary installations before June 2022 if they don’t comply with the conditions agreed to when obtaining a permit to operate them. The city can deny applications for permanent parklets if they present issues related to traffic safety or block access to sidewalks, which could result in ADA violations.

The city has already closed down some outdoor dining sites like the ones along Atlantic Avenue in Bixby Knolls and the Pine Avenue parklets that closed much of the Downtown corridor for the better part of a year to allow businesses to serve diners outside.

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Long Beach may let restaurants keep temporary outdoor-dining areas longer than planned

Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or @JasonRuiz_LB on Twitter.