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Huntington Beach to reopen second block of Main Street to traffic

Pedestrians walk along Main Street, between Walnut Avenue and Olive Avenue in Huntington Beach.
Pedestrians walk along Main Street, between Walnut Avenue and Olive Avenue, on Wednesday afternoon in Huntington Beach. The Huntington Beach City Council on Tuesday night voted to end the expanded outdoor dining on Main Street, and open the second block to traffic again.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)
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Huntington Beach will reopen the second block of Main Street to vehicular traffic, ending the expanded outdoor dining and retail that has been in place since early in the coronavirus pandemic.

The Huntington Beach City Council voted to reopen the second block on a split 4-3 vote Tuesday night, after hearing input from dozens of residents and receiving 29 emails on the agenda item.

The item was brought forward by Mayor Pro Tem Gracey Van Der Mark, who was joined by Mayor Tony Strickland and Councilmen Casey McKeon and Pat Burns as yes votes. Councilmembers Dan Kalmick, Natalie Moser and Rhonda Bolton were the no votes.

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Restaurant owners have until March 1 to remove the expanded dining operations from the street, and parking meters will be re-introduced for the second block as well.

Van Der Mark acknowledged that things could change again. Long-term plans to revitalize downtown and Main Street are in the works, though they were paused by the council at its last meeting on Dec. 20 until more feedback could be received.

For the time being, however, the restaurants and retail shops will have to get out of the street and make way for the cars.

A man jogs along Main Street, between Walnut Avenue and Olive Avenue, on Wednesday afternoon in Huntington Beach.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

“Gracey stuck her neck out and walked every single business the last few weeks to talk with them, reach out to them, leave her card to meet with them to understand their concerns,” McKeon said. “There’s been some statements made that if we open it up, we don’t support business, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re trying to find a solution that benefits every single business on Main Street. The last two years exposed some deficiencies, and also presented some opportunities. It’s time to have an adult conversation about this; this haphazard what we have now is unacceptable.”

McKeon added that the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Coastal Commission are expected to release regulations that will affect outdoor seating and alcoholic beverages.

“Let’s jump on it now,” he said. “Let’s be prudent and take the right approach.”

Surf City residents and business owners alike seemed split on leaving the outdoor dining as is, which encourages a European style, pedestrian-friendly communal environment. But some decried the “mish-mash” of umbrellas and tables, and said the lack of parking hurt both business and city revenues from parking meters.

Oscar Carrillo, the general manager of Main Street Wine Co. in the third block of Main Street, told the council he opposed the change back to pre-coronavirus conditions.

“I wish the whole thing was closed down again, all three blocks,” Carrillo said, to applause from some in the crowd. “I think it should be a giant pedestrian area, for all of us. I oppose the agenda item because there’s no plan already [in place]. The majority of the people who have come to Main Street Wine Company have expressed to me that they don’t want to see the outside dining go away ... I think it would be awesome if we could have some sort of pedestrian pavilion walkway down there where you could have music outside, have entertainment outside, where we could sit outside on our sidewalks and enjoy Huntington Beach. This is why we live here.”

A barrier prevents motorists' access along the second block of Main Street in Huntington Beach on Wednesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

Chanel Fignetti, the daughter of late Huntington Beach surfing icon Rick “Rockin’ Fig” Fignetti, said that she supported reopening the second block to traffic. Rockin’ Fig’s Surf Headquarters is on the third block.

“I do believe that the second block closure is closing down our business,” she said. “My father thought the same thing as well ... People can’t park, and it’s not flowing anymore. Tourists come off [Pacific Coast Highway], they hit that second block and they don’t know where to go. They drive around, they don’t know the area, and then they don’t realize that there’s a third part of Main Street at the top.”

Van Der Mark cited numbers that show city parking revenue has dropped by more than half during the pandemic, from $335,835.41 in 2019 to $151,577.45 in 2022.

But Kalmick said that every resident he’s talked to has loved having the second block closed.

“Why do we want to subsidize private vehicle storage on public property?” he asked. “That’s what we’d be doing by adding parking back. The parking meters are not intended to make money, just as street sweeping is not intended to make money. The parking meters are intended to turn spots.”

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