Outdoor dining plan in Bixby Knolls back on track after months-long setback

Residents may see more outdoor dining space along the Atlantic Avenue corridor by the end of this week, as work to create parklets and other modifications resumes now that the ban on outdoor dining has been lifted.

The street modifications were envisioned to support both outdoor dining and to reduce traffic speed between East Claiborne Drive and East Armando Road in Bixby Knolls.

“It is a fairly substantial modification, so it will take multiple days and various teams to complete the install,” Public Works spokeswoman Jennifer Carey wrote in an email.

City traffic engineers first detailed the open streets plan in October. In early November, they announced that the street reduction was going to begin, but it never did as COVID-19 infection rates began to rise. The city, and later the state, banned outdoor dining on Nov. 25.

By December, hospital ICU capacities were strained as officials at the state, county and local level were faced with some of the worst COVID-19 infection rates and deaths since the start of the pandemic.

As case rates began to stabilize, the state lifted the outdoor dining ban on Jan. 25. City planners are now picking up where they left off.

Barriers will be put in place to offer protection to pedestrians, but the true protective barrier will be parked cars between the lane that remains open and the closed down lane, officials said. Restaurants still have to apply for a temporary parklet permit or outdoor activity permit to operate outdoors, Carey said.

The open streets plan will continue through to the end of March or until socially distanced dining is no longer required, city planners said. Officials added that they would monitor these street changes on a biweekly basis to see how it impacts public safety.

A screenshot of a proposed open street project on Atlantic Avenue in Bixby Knolls. Traffic would be reduced to one lane to allow for business to have outdoor seating and to attempt to reduce speeding traffic.

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Sebastian Echeverry is the North Long Beach reporter through the Report for America program. Philanthropic organizations pledged to cover the local donor portion of his grant-funded position with the Long Beach Post. If you want to support Sebastian's work, you can donate to his Report for America position at lbpost.com/support.