Coast Village Road parklets to be limited in size by end of October, providing more parking
Some parking spaces claimed by Montecito restaurants for their outdoor dining parklets will be removed from their domain and returned to the public for its use by the end of October, including retail store owners who have railed against the loss of parking available to their customers since the parklets appeared along Coast Village Road.
In a letter addressed to the “Coast Village Road Community,” Santa Barbara City Administrator Rebecca Bjork said that parklets located in the diagonal public parking spaces of Coast Village Road will have to comply with the city’s requirements no later than Oct. 28.
A key requirement is that those diagonal parklets will be limited to a maximum of two, adjacent public parking spaces in front of a business.
“Parking along Coast Village Road has long been at a premium,” Ms. Bjork said in her Sept. 6 letter. “The addition of parklets and the resultant loss of public parking spaces due to the allowance of parklets has created inequities amongst various businesses on Coast Village Road.”
She said she made her decision “in an effort to create more business equity and support all business segments on Coast Village Road, consistent with the requirements of the Economic Recovery Extension and Transition Ordinance.”
Currently, eight businesses use parklets and those parklets occupy approximately 28 (21 percent) of the 131 public parking spaces on Coast Village Road.
“Limiting the maximum size of parklets will return much-needed parking spaces back to the public while allowing restaurants to continue to offer outdoor dining,” she said.
As of Oct. 28, parklets also must adhere to all other requirements of the Parklet Guidelines as referenced in Section 3 of the ERETO, including American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, she said. Parklets in other areas must adhere to the requirements of the Parklet Guidelines as well.
“Businesses in violation of these requirements are subject to enforcement action, including removal of the parklet,” she said.
In April 2020, the City of Santa Barbara, which governs Coast Village Road, “responded quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant public health orders restricting business operations by allowing businesses to temporarily expand their operations outdoors and closing portions of city streets,” Ms. Bjork noted.
Additionally, the city allowed for the temporary use of public parking spaces to accommodate outdoor business activity.
On June 15, 2021, the federal Center for Disease Control lifted a number of health restrictions and allowed for the opportunity to once again dine indoors.
The ERETO, which provides for the continued allowance of parklets until Dec. 31, 2023, also provides the city administrator with the sole authority to amend guidelines and regulations in regards to ERETO programs, including parklets.
“In an effort to better understand parklets and their impact on public parking, resultant business inequities, as well as gauge overall community sentiment regarding parklets, the city conducted a public outreach process throughout the month of August,” Ms. Bjork said.
The outreach included a meeting with members of the Coast Village Association and a public meeting on Aug.12 at the Montecito Inn, as well as a confidential online survey.
Over the next few months, in an effort to make existing parking spaces more effective for local businesses through improving turnover of parking space occupants, the city will actively pursue additional code compliance resources to assist in addressing parking violations along Coast Village Road, Ms. Bjork said.
Additionally, the city will revisit the issue of parklets on Coast Village Road in early 2023 to assess the impacts of this directive on public parking resources.
“We appreciate the public and business community working jointly to ensure equal opportunities for all businesses on Coast Village Road.”
Ms. Bjork reiterated to the News-Press that her decision to send the letter was made under her authority as the city administrator as delegated in the Economic Recovery ordinance.
“The intent of that ordinance is to allow some continued flexibility for businesses as they continue to recover from the pandemic,” she said. “It is important that we support all our businesses, and on Coast Village road, the parklets were taking up a disproportional amount of parking and working to the disadvantage of the retail businesses that are also very important to the area.
“The decision was made after outreach and consideration of the input we received in that process,” she said. “We responded to similar concerns and made similar administrative changes on the 1300 block of State Street and Victoria, earlier in the pandemic.
Asked why she made the decision now, she noted that “we are entering the holiday shopping season and it is important to restore parking access for the retail businesses to thrive.”
She noted that the Montecito parklet scenario is entirely different from the one on lower State Street in Santa Barbara. As such, the parklet issues confronting Montecitio will not be addressed by the ad hoc committee appointed by the City Council to come up with recommendations regarding, among other things, the city’s downtown parklets, including their size and potential portability.
“The Council ad hoc committee is a short term special purpose committee dealing with the State Street Promenade specifically,” she said.
Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon, who sits on the ad hoc committee, agreed.
“The ad hoc recommendations, at this point, are for outdoor dining facilities on State Street only,” she told the News-Press. “We have not discussed parklets generally, or specific to Coast Village Road, which is unique due to the parking constraints in the area.
“I am looking for a balanced approach on Coast Village Road,” she said. “People love the parklets here, and they have provided a real service to the community. Some are creating more impact than others, and there needs to be a balance that accommodates both the demands for outdoor dining and the demands for parking in the area.
“This decision for how to handle the parklets on CVR at this point was made by the City Administrator and Public Works. There may need to be adjustments based on community input.”
While not commenting specifically on the city administrator’s decision other than to say she had the “sole discretion” to make it, Councilwoman Sneddon has said that it seems the CVR parklets “have served their purpose during the height of the pandemic to give expanded outdoor dining options,” and “can now be scaled back to increase parking capacity and sightlines to businesses in this unique area.”
The Montecito parklet/parking dispute became public after more than two dozen Montecito businesses and seven landlords signed a petition to the city council urging members to remove the parklets. They cited the increased parking space shortage and stressed that the parklets, once vital to restaurants during the height of the pandemic, were no longer necessary.
Restaurant owners, however, disagreed, saying the economic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, inflation and tight budgets made the parklets’ continued availability to them vital to their staying in business.