This Bay Space metropolis is requiring eating places to have “letters of consent” to maintain out of doors seating, parklets


PALO ALTO — Palo Alto’s out of doors restaurant scene might look dramatically completely different subsequent yr after metropolis leaders voted to require “letters of consent” from neighboring companies earlier than restaurant parklets and out of doors seating proceed on public streets — one thing the eatery homeowners say is unhealthy transfer for downtown.

In a detailed 4-3 vote, the town council additionally voted to require restaurant homeowners doing enterprise on public streets to handle considerations by some retailers that the pandemic-era parking and seating has meant much less avenue visibility for his or her close by companies.

“It is a squeamish concern,” Councilman Eric Filseth stated. “When you might have your individual property, you are able to do what you need by yourself property, so long as it’s inside zoning code. Now we’re speaking about implied rights of use on public property.”

Whereas metropolis council members argued over the fitting method to parklets, Filseth described the “letter of consent” rule because the lesser of two evils.

When public well being officers warned folks to remain inside and ordered eating places and different companies to close their doorways because the coronavirus pandemic intensified in 2020, parklets have been seen as an revolutionary, new lifeline for eating places to proceed working and conform with well being orders.

Throughout the Bay Space nearly three years later, parklets have develop into a mainstay of common business strips and have remodeled as soon as car-centric areas into vibrant, pedestrian pleasant group facilities rife with native tradition and exercise. In locations like Mountain View, metropolis leaders have doubled down on their dedication to pandemic-era public areas that individuals have grown to like and rely upon.

Final yr Mountain View leaders voted to flip Castro Road right into a everlasting pedestrian mall with out vehicles, increasing the power of eating places and companies to make the most of public area and opening new doorways to cultural occasions and high quality of life enhancements on the metropolis’s middle.

Different cities on the Peninsula like Menlo Park, Burlingame and Redwood Metropolis have additionally supported preserving parklets and out of doors seating and created pointers to make sure the security of makeshift constructions. However different cities like Palo Alto are backing down on this pandemic-era innovation.

The Palo Alto metropolis council additionally prolonged till June 2023 the town’s interim parklet program, which was set to finish Dec, 31. Within the meantime, officers will create a brand new metropolis regulation governing the constructing and working of parklets. Metropolis officers additionally stated they are going to doubtless impose a price  — between $8,000 to $10,000 yearly — for downtown out of doors eating places and about $4,000 for these past the College Avenue space.

PALO ALTO, CA - MONTH DAY: People dine outdoors on University Avenue in downtown Palo Alto, Calif., on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Outdoor dining space has increased since the coronavirus pandemic. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group)
In Could of 2021, folks dine open air on College Avenue in downtown Palo Alto. (Jane Tyska/Bay Space Information Group) 

Nancy Coupal, proprietor and CEO of the Coupa Cafe chain, stated the brand new regulation isn’t going to be good for downtown. Coupa Cafe on Ramona Avenue has lengthy benefitted from parklets and prolonged out of doors seating, she stated, and taking that away would harm her enterprise and the downtown’s vibrancy.

“Opposite to what some landlords might say, parklets have positively contributed to the livelihood and continued existence of eating places, that are the first enterprise selling Palo Alto as a vacation spot for guests,” Coupal stated. “Retail has suffered as occasions have modified.”

Coupal supported the parklet price choice, however not the plan to require neighbors’ consent.

Megan Kawkab, proprietor of Ruby’s Pub, stated she was one of many first folks within the metropolis to construct a roofed parklet, which she has used for nearly two years and not using a downside. She opposed charging eating places to make use of public areas, arguing the income delivered to metropolis by hungry clients paying gross sales tax must be sufficient.

“The rents you’re going to cost are nearly as a lot as what we pay for our storefronts,” she stated. “I don’t assume that charging of us that have already got put in massive portions of cash for a parklet when you let folks have closed streets they usually’re not paying. There are plenty of holes on this that must reworked, recrocheted and knit collectively once more, and I do assume the enterprise homeowners have to be part of this.”

Council Tom Dubois agreed the present plan has its flaws, describing it as a “naive” response to the state of affairs, although he voted sure on the consent measure.

“In an ideal world, certain, folks will agree and all people will get alongside, however there’re going to be conditions the place there isn’t a consent and other people aren’t going to agree,” he stated.

“I don’t wish to have a state of affairs the place there’s coercion between companies in an effort to get parklets authorized, and it’s going to be troublesome to the town to arbitrate this. We have to defend ourselves in opposition to unreasonable actors, however in the end I feel the town must resolve.”

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