Legends Restaurant and Sports Bar can officially move forward with building a permanent outdoor dining parklet on Second Street in Belmont Shore after the Planning Commission denied an appeal by residents who sought to block its construction.

Legends was granted a permit by the city’s Development Services Department in May, but that decision was challenged by residents who said the new parklet would amount to a giveaway of public land and hinder pedestrian safety, especially those with mobility issues.

The parklet will take up the two parking spaces directly in front of the business.

Joe Weinstein, one of the appellants representing a group named Citizens About Responsible Planning, urged the commission to deny the permanent parklet.

“It’s about the future of the entirety of Second Street in Belmont Shore,” Weinstein said, adding that if the commission approved this parklet it would likely have to approve other parklets in the area.

The commission received over 50 public comments in advance of the meeting with a mix of support and opposition to the new parklet, which will be approximately 300 square feet and allow for up to 20 people to sit in the new space.

“I think one of the best things about Long Beach is we have some of the best weather on the planet,” Kyle St. Romaine said Thursday, adding that residents and visitors would be able to enjoy that “natural wealth” with the new parklet. “And I fully support it.”

Julie Dean, president of the Belmont Shore Resident Association, said she had gathered 600 signatures of people who live in the area that are opposed to permanent parklets on Second Street, noting their effect on already tight parking conditions and the congestion they bring to the area’s sidewalks.

Dean, who uses a wheelchair, said that it was difficult for her to navigate the corridor when parklets were up due to patrons and staff blocking the public walkway, which she said was likely a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Legends does not own that sidewalk,” Dean said. “It’s a public right of way.”

Commissioner Michael Clemson questioned if removing parking spaces for parklets was actually a loss of public space, noting that only people who drive can use parking spaces. A condition of the new permanent parklets is that they will have to be made available to all members of the public, regardless of whether they’re buying anything from the business it belongs to.

“People who don’t drive don’t benefit from those spaces,” Clemson said.

The commission voted 3-1 to deny the appeal and uphold the city’s zoning administrator’s approval of the parklet in May.

Two other restaurants in Belmont Shore, Open Sesame and The Win~Dow, which is replacing Archibald’s at the west end of the Second Street corridor, both have applications for either a parklet (Open Sesame) or outdoor dining set to be heard by the department’s zoning administrator later this month.

Parklets were a lifeline for restaurants during the pandemic as they allowed diners to eat outdoors while indoor dining was restricted or banned to limit the transmission of COVID-19. However, the city required all temporary installations to come down by the end of January.

While temporary parklets were allowed under the city’s open streets initiative during the pandemic, businesses have been eligible to apply for permanent parklets since 2018, when the city adopted guidelines for permanent structures.

The city had received two dozen applications for the city’s permanent parklet program by March.

City Councilmembers approved an appeal process for parklets in the city in December, which gives the City Council the last word on permanent parklet proposals, but the decision limits the power of residents in that process.

The original language adopted by the council said that a parklet application could be blocked if neighborhood groups opposed the project, but changes adopted by the council only allow opposition to trigger a hearing before the City Council if a parklet project faces opposition during a 30-day period in which the applicant must post a public notice of an intent to build a parklet.

Parklet projects in Belmont Shore face a different process because they’re in the Coastal Zone, which in some cases requires approval from the California Coastal Commission for a project to move forward. However, the Second Street corridor is in a portion of the zone where the city has the authority to issue permits.

The Planning Commission’s vote Thursday likely will be final.

What to know about Long Beach’s permanent parklet program

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