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Council Makes Outdoors Business Program Permanent
 

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By Jorge Casuso

June 30, 2022 -- Spawned as a temporary response to a health emergency, “parklets” are here to stay as a permanent feature of Santa Monica's commercial strips, the City Council unanimously decided on Tuesday.

The Council's vote comes as the outdoor use permits and associated license agreements for 90 existing parklets are set to expire on September 30, according to City staff.

Parklet on Main Street
Parklet on Main Street (Courtesy City of Santa Monica)

In addition, 102 sidewalk dining patios, 17 dining areas on the Promenade and 5 expanded areas on the Pier also are currently operating on a temporary basis.

“The Santa Monica Outdoors Program has been a critical resource to keep businesses open in Santa Monica throughout the pandemic and has been loved and utilized by business owners and patrons alike,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich.

“We are excited to support a permanent program that will allow businesses to continue outdoor activations Citywide,” she said.

SMTT Job Fair

The approved permanent program allows local businesses to construct parklets that convert two curbside parking spaces within the public right-of-way into "vibrant extensions of the sidewalk" where people can dine, shop and exercise, City officials said.

Implemented to meet social distancing requirements during the coronavirus pandemic, the parklets have lifted foot traffic to levels above those before the emergency was declared, officials said.

The program -- which goes into effect October 1 -- includes "a streamlined review and permit process, requires standard traffic safety barriers and increases outreach to business neighbors," officials said.

The progam "will continue to utilize the streamlined permitting process established during the pandemic and will be institutionalized through a new Public Works permit that carries a two-year term in addition to a licensing agreement," according to staff's report to the Council.

"Most everyone seems to want to do what they're doing now," Jennifer Taylor, the City's Economic Development Manager, told the Council.

According to recent community surveys, the temporary program -- which has been in place for more than two years -- has proven popular.

More than 80 percent of participating businesses indicated they would like to continue their parklets, while a similar percentage of residents surveyed support the program, according to the survey.

More than 80 percent of residents and visitors said they "would like to see more parklets" and "were more likely to patronize a business" if they had one.

“When other cities were shutting down their programs, we kept ours going,” said City Manager David White. The expanded outdoor spaces, he added, “have been critical to our entire community over the past two years."

Staring October 1, businesses that take part in the Outdoors Parklet Program will be assessed a monthly fee of $2.12 per square foot for using the space, staff said.

The fee covers the cost of inspections, customer service and ensures maintenance of public right of way access, staff said.

Businesses currently participating in the temporary program can renew their operation, opt out or adjust the outdoor footprint to reduce monthly costs, officials said.

Those who currently have a temporary permit must apply for a permanent one no later than September 15. Those who do not apply by that date must remove their parklets by September 30.

Businesses not currently participating in the temporary program need to apply for a Parklet Permit and License to participate in the permanent program.

Staff is currently working with Business Improvement Districts "to review local business requests to allow for ongoing expanded Promenade dining and long-term use of private outdoor spaces such as parking lots," officials said.

Recommendations for expanded use of the Promenade will be brought back to the Council in August and November for use of private outdoor spaces.

Staff will work with Pier tenants "on a case-by-case basis to evaluate expanded dining requests and can then issue new or modified license agreements."

For more information about the program, click here. For questions, contact 311@santamonica.gov or call 3-1-1.


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