Long Beach to allow outdoor dining parklets to operate longer

The Long Beach City Council voted Tuesday to extend the city’s open streets program, leaving open the possibility that outdoor dining parklets could be more permanent than originally intended, and even expanded.

The city’s Open Streets program, which has resulted in restaurant parklets being built out into existing lanes of traffic and other street closures to promote safe outdoor activities was set to expire next month. However a unanimous vote by the council Tuesday will extend the program starting in January, with quarterly reviews of the street closures.

It will also include the continuance of the closure of Pine Avenue in Downtown from First to Fifth streets.

The vote also authorized the city’s traffic engineer to possibly review and adjust streets identified for the program going forward.

Many of the street closures were authorized to aid in businesses’ recovery from the initial economic shutdown and bans on indoor dining in the county. While a statewide order currently has shutdown outdoor dining in Long Beach, the parklets could prove critical to businesses trying to rebound from the current closures.

“I’d love to see this continue and possibly after we’re healthy as a society and a city post-COVID,” said Councilman Al Austin, who represents Bixby Knolls and other parts of North Long Beach. “I’d like to see these street closures and open street concepts expanded to other areas of the city. When we talk about economic equity this is one of the areas we need to talk about as well.”

Councilwoman Mary Zendejas, whose district includes the Pine Avenue closure, said she’s been passionate about these types of closures for years since they provide residents with less access to parks more room to recreate safely.

“This has given Downtown neighbors space for art and to activate the community and has helped to draw foot traffic to North Pine businesses,” Zendejas said.

The closures are expected to be reviewed quarterly and the cost to the city to continue the program is unclear. Over $730,000 has been budgeted toward the program to date with funding coming from local and federal sources.

 

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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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