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Dining out: Laguna Beach approves pilot program for parklets

Outdoor dining on newly built decks are one of the new features on the Promenade on Forest.
Outdoor dining on newly built decks are one of the new features on the Promenade on Forest in downtown Laguna Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Restaurants and other businesses in Laguna Beach will now have the opportunity to apply for dining in parking spaces.

The city’s pilot program for the installation of parklets will be included as part of its current economic recovery and business development plan, in which the City Council in May gave city staff greater discretion on approvals of temporary use permits for outdoor dining, retail displays and temporary signage.

Parklets would be considered as another option of the temporary use permit application for businesses, city staff said.

Four restaurants have submitted requests for parklets to date, but Community Development Director Marc Wiener said Tuesday he anticipates more applications to come into the department if the city approved the program.

Implementation will allow restaurants to use limited on-street parking and city parking lots for parklets through the current temporary use permit application process. City staff were authorized Tuesday to develop design and safety criteria to address COVID-19 and vehicular traffic such as ensuring ADA compliance, lighting for night usage and prohibition of parklets on Pacific Coast Highway.

Restaurant parklets will also be required to be compliant with Alcohol Beverage Control standards for alcohol consumption. As part of the implementation of the program, the city will relax sign code to allow for limited signage, and sufficient parking in areas surrounding parklets must be maintained.

Parklets would only be allowed for restaurants that currently operate from a fixed location within the city.

The standard parklet would be two parking spaces. About 30% of parking spaces in a city parking lot can be considered for parklets, city staff said in a staff report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting.

The end date of the program is scheduled for April 30.

Council members directed city staff to incorporate businesses other than restaurants to apply for parklets and to appropriate $50,000 from the city’s parking fund for applicants on a first-come, first-served basis to help applicants finance construction of parklets, with awards up to $5,000 at staff discretion.

The council also unanimously approved the second reading and adopted an ordinance amending the Downtown Specific Plan to relax business permitting and parking requirements. Members also directed city staff to request certification of the subsequent amendments to the city’s local coastal program related to the plan update by the California Coastal Commission.

The first reading of the ordinance was approved in June.

Housing, building height and parcel merger requirements will be addressed separately with the Housing Element update.

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