Comments on Proposed Parklets Program – City Council
City Council Meeting, March 16, 2021
Good evening Mayor Martin and City Council –
Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments related to the City’s proposed action for the Temporary Parklet Program implemented in the summer of 2020. As noted, the temporary parklet program provided downtown restaurants with the opportunity to create dining capacity outdoors in order to comply with state COVID-19 regulations. In all cases, it appears the temporary program was effective and helpful for downtown restaurants to accommodate dining needs and maintain some level of operations for their businesses.
We appreciate the City’s efforts to maintain a proactive response moving forward, however we’d like to extend additional and alternative recommendations for your consideration:
First, end the placement and location of the temporary parklets by October 25, 2021. It is anticipated that by late fall, indoor dining with increased capacity may be allowed and the need to extend dining outdoors may not be needed. Additionally, the weather does begin to change and the feasibility of outdoor dining without a means for cover or heating diminishes. This timing allows downtown restaurants to provide outdoor dining capacity through the summer and early fall. As noted, the initial permitting of parklets was intended to be temporary.
2. We are somewhat bewildered by why the City chose not to purchase the additional K-Rails needed for public safety as suggested by Council earlier in the year. We believe purchase vs. renting would have saved the City additional costs related to infrastructure needed for the parklets and may have added to the City’s public safety apparatus inventory to use for future public events. The issue of storage may have been addressed through discussions with community partners with available space and we suggest you revisit this topic as a means to maintain the temporary structures at a reasonable cost.
Finally, we support the recommendation to develop a Long-Term Outdoor Parklet Focus Group that will exercise all options and reimagine the use of public space while at the same time address community-based issues of concern such as overall feasibility, loss of parking, public safety and public right of way, storm water drainage, and impacts pertaining to equitability in regards to the surrounding retail businesses.
We’d like to suggest the City engage in an expanded public outreach and planning process that involves downtown stakeholders as well as community members to consider how the parklets potentially impact the fabric of the neighborhood and determine how they fit into the City’s overall uptown/downtown area specific plan.
We agree this engagement should solicit community feedback to help make the determination as to whether or not we maintain the parklet program. If so, a formal permitting process AND established design standards that align with the City’s overall aesthetics along with exploring: operational requirements, limits on permitted areas, pedestrian and vehicular traffic flow and the potential for public/private partnerships must be examined.
We believe the City should approach a permanent parklet program the same way it would any other change to the City’s zoning code or land use designation by aligning it with the City’s General Plan and/or area specific plans.
There is much to appreciate about the historic charm of our downtown and to approach such a change without broader community engagement and a transparent process would be a missed opportunity for the City.
Thank you for your consideration of our recommendations.
President/CEO, Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce