Civically Speaking is a weekly newsletter on the latest local government news from the lens of the Long Beach Post’s City Hall reporter, who sits through so many city meetings for us.
The Parklet Wars
Most of us have probably seen and or eaten at one of the city’s dining parklets. Maybe it was when dining indoors was forbidden and you were seeking a bit of normalcy while supporting a small business.
And maybe it was more recent before the city forced all the temporary structures to be taken down at the beginning of the year.
However, the end of the temporary program has transitioned to a “permanent” program that has already seen two businesses in Belmont Shore obtain permission to build out new structures.
The opposition has been fierce, coming from a vocal minority (they say they have over 600 signatures of those who agree) who argue that the loss of parking in the Shore is a non-starter. The area is one of a handful of those designated by the city as “parking impacted” because of the scarcity of spots.
However, this week Open Sesame was granted the right to remove two parking spaces with its new parklet. Two weeks before that, the Planning Commission overturned a challenge to Legends doing the same.
While four parking spots may not signal the end of commerce on Second Street, the opponents bring up some valid points.
For anyone who visited Belmont Shore when the temporary structures were up, you’ll probably remember how difficult and chaotic it was to navigate through some of those areas as people waiting to get into restaurants merged with those hanging out near parklets or on the sidewalk.
The ADA concerns are real and the city said those were something it took into consideration when Public Works released an analysis last year showing where permanent parklets could exist because they didn’t create traffic issues, block public utilities or pose any other type of hazard.
In Belmont Shore, there were 20 locations that were found to be feasible for a permanent parklet, but it appears that not every business that applies for one will succeed.
Alexis Oropeza, the city’s Zoning Administrator, which has been deciding the parklet permits so far, said Monday that she had “some concerns” about Belmont Shore “reaching a saturation point.”
I reached out for clarification on this because it sounds like the city could hit a point where removing parking does become a real issue. Citywide, there were 23 applications for parklets or other outdoor dining as of May, with many of those along Second Street.
When does the area reach that saturation point? At six parklets? Eleven?
A city official this week couldn’t say how many parklet approvals it would take to reach a saturation point.
The parklets do remove parking spaces and add public space. Yes, these new dining areas have to post signage saying that the public can use them, even if they’re not purchasing anything from the businesses that built them. And that’s something the city has pointed to as a positive.
But it does take away parking, which residents who live adjacent to the area will have to deal with until public transportation in the city becomes more enticing for residents to use. While the city has pointed to studies saying that making it more difficult to park could nudge people into alternate modes of transportation, those modes first have to exist.
Protected bike lanes and bus routes that don’t take an hour to cross the city could be critical companion pieces to areas like Belmont Shore if the goal truly is to create a more pedestrian-friendly corridor.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW THIS WEEK:
A long-discussed homeless service hub along the A Line in Long Beach looks like it could be permanently on ice. LA County Metro had sought to build a service hub at the Wardlow or Willow Stations in the city to alleviate the end-of-the-line issues that residents, business owners and city officials have complained about for months but the city had pushed back against the idea of the hub. Last week, Mayor Rex Richardson and Metro officials traveled to Philadelphia to see how its hub, the one Metro had pointed to as a model, worked. What they found was a much larger operation than they had imagined and now Metro could pivot to developing the hub at Union Station, where there is more space. That doesn’t preclude there being some kind of ongoing outreach services springing up in Long Beach, but the proposal to build a hub with showers, sleeping quarters and other services appears to be dead.
PAY ATTENTION TO THIS NEXT WEEK:
The way you access meeting agendas and view public meetings online will be changing. The City Clerk’s office is scheduled to give a presentation on the changes that could happen as soon as October, which will include the city transitioning from its current Granicus platform to a new vendor, OneMeeting. The council approved the clerk’s office to move forward with changes in October 2021 and if you want a preview of what it might look like once it launches you can check out the city of Los Angeles’ website. The new platform is expected to allow users to translate agendas, which are currently only posted in English, to Spanish, Khmer and Tagalog. The department has said it plans to release tutorials in the lead up to when the new site goes live in mid-October.