Laguna Beach’s outdoor dining and parklet program given a two-year extension
Laguna Beach has extended the life of its outdoor dining and parklet program for an additional two years.
A majority of the Laguna Beach City Council supported the item, by a 4-1 vote, during the Nov. 7 meeting to extend the program through 2025.
“I think it’s a good program, something we should continue to encourage,” Mayor Bob Whalen said ahead of the vote.
The extension represents a stop-gap measure, as city staff continue to mull permanent changes for outdoor dining that will be brought back to the council at a later date.
Laguna Beach introduced the program in May 2020 to help businesses during the coronavirus pandemic. While discussions continue around the idea of turning the Promenade on Forest into a permanent pedestrian plaza, the program extension addressed the temporary use permits that were issued separate from the Promenade.
A fee structure was implemented for providing outdoor dining on public property in May.
Fifteen restaurants citywide continue to participate in the outdoor dining and parklet program. A total of 68 parking spaces have been allocated for use as parklets.
Approximately 93% of the dedicated parking spaces are currently accounted for. Four local restaurants — Hapi Sushi of Laguna, Slice Pizza, Sushi Laguna and the Wharf — did not renew their outdoor dining permits, according to a staff report. The parklets used by those restaurants were removed, leaving five available spaces for new applications to be considered.
Councilman George Weiss inquired as to why Las Brisas needed 28 parking spaces to accommodate its outdoor dining availability. He suggested a reduction in parking space use should be sought, particularly considering the restaurant’s outdoor patio space on site and its proximity to Heisler Park.
Community Development Director Marc Wiener acknowledged Las Brisas’ parking space allocation as being “fairly substantial.”
“They really have the lion’s share of the parking spaces under this program,” Wiener said. “That is something that we are intending to look at when we take this back to the Planning Commission for the [temporary use permit]. I do want to see if we can get that footprint reduced a little bit more and get some of those parking spaces open.”
Council members added a Planning Commission review of the parking spaces used by Las Brisas to the vote. While he expressed his support for outdoor dining, Councilman Alex Rounaghi indicated the added action was the reason behind his dissenting vote.
Public input on the item varied. Some called for the end of the outdoor dining and parklet program as an emergency measure that was no longer necessary, while others viewed it as an enjoyable experience that should be made more permanent.
Councilman Mark Orgill asked if the city could explore widening sidewalks to eliminate the need for parklets to facilitate outdoor dining.
“I personally am not a big fan of the visual impact of the parklets, and I’m hoping that when we do … the implementation of the downtown action plan that we look for opportunities that could accommodate outdoor dining without the parklets,” he said.
Orgill also followed up on a public concern that the parklets were leading to lost parking revenue.
“We have the analysis, and [the sales tax generated by outdoor dining] does offset the parking,” Assistant City Manager Gavin Curran said.
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