Parklets

Customers dine on the new parklet at Saint & Second in Belmont Shore, one of several installed throughout Long Beach to expand socially-distant seating capacity.

If a Belmont Shore panel has its way, Long Beach’s Open Streets Program may be here to stay.

The Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Area Advisory Commission, which makes recommendations to the Long Beach Mayor and City Council about parking in the neighborhood, has come out in favor of making the city’s Open Streets Program permanent.

The Open Streets Program, which allows businesses to expand into city sidewalks and streets, launched over the summer as a way to help those businesses safely serve customers and stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

The program was initially set to last through October but has since been extended through the end of the year.

The City Council has directed City Manager Tom Modica to look into making the program permanent. But when the idea came before the panel, it faced some criticism from residents.

“We are losing all the parking spaces that were once along the curb,” resident Ann Cantrell said during the September meeting. “We are losing, in some cases, a lane of traffic in Belmont Shore. These parklets extending out into the street are make driving very hazardous. You’re driving on a cross-street, and you cannot see the oncoming traffic because the restaurants are extending out into the streets.

“I am in favor of helping the restaurants and the businesses,” Cantrell said, “but I don’t think this is the way to do it.”

But the Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Area Advisory Commission sees it differently, according to a recent memo the panel sent to the mayor and the City Council.

“Given the temporary nature of the parklets,” the commission’s chair, Matthew Peterson, wrote, “the Parking Commission further expresses support for the parklets to be considered as a permanent installation within Belmont Shore.”

Peterson, who is a partner in Legends Sports Bar on Second Street, wrote that considerations like “appropriate code adherence, permitting requirements, safety enhancements, and design aesthetics” will be important for a permanent conversion.

But ultimately, he wrote, the benefits of the program to the neighborhood have outweighed the concerns with it.

“The Parking Commission would like to express to the City Council how beneficial the Open Streets Initiative and the parklets have been for the continued viability and livelihood of our many businesses,” Peterson wrote. “The parklets bring additional opportunities to many of our businesses by increasing visitors to the district.”

Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price has announced she will host a virtual community meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, about the parklets.

The possibility of further extending the program or making it permanent will likely come before the City Council next month.

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