Long Beach will extend its Open Streets program until next summer, allowing sidewalk parking lots that opened during the coronavirus pandemic to stay in place – but with that move comes a few catches.
The Open Streets program will now have a process for local residents to notify the city that a restaurant or business may be violating city policies.
While some businesses and local residents have appreciated the program, some residents of 2nd Street in the Belmont Shore neighborhood said these parklets have increased noise in the area, attracted rowdy bartenders and limited parking in some areas.
This new extension also comes with a new inspection process for parklets to ensure business owners are complying with local laws and this will create an opportunity for residents of this neighborhood to meet with staff from the city about their concerns.
City council members voted on Tuesday, September 14 to extend the program until June 30, 2022, but for the program in the Belmont Shore neighborhood, council members will look into the matter again before December 31, 2021.
“Me and the residence association are not anti-restaurant,” she said Genny Hulbruck, president of the Belmont Shore Residents Association at the meeting. “We are in favor of traffic safety, pedestrian safety, access to sidewalks for those who use assisted devices and strollers, and the availability of parking for residents and their guests. “
Other neighborhood residents described parklets around their neighborhoods as noisy, congested with traffic and sometimes attracting drunk customers, some of whom urinated in private residences.
“There are companies and operations that are not in compliance,” said Daryl Burns at the meeting. He added that he liked the Open Streets program to help local businesses, but restaurants and businesses have a responsibility to monitor their parking lots.
“These need to be evaluated,” he said.
Some restaurateurs spoke at the meeting, saying parklet programs are necessary for their businesses to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Belmont Shore needs a boost,” said Ron Newman, owner of Panama Joe’s. “Lots of empty businesses out there.”
Jimmy Lozides, owner of George’s Greek Cafe in Long Beach, agreed that the parklet programs are good for business, but was appalled to hear some stories from local residents.
“It saved our business, it’s not even an exaggeration,” he said. “I’m in favor of parklets for Belmont Shore, but I’m also in favor of policing and making sure residents don’t think of us the way they do.”
The extension of the Open Streets program was passed by city council, with many council members agreeing the program is necessary, but supported regulations to inspect parklets across the city.
“What the city manager is proposing, whether it’s Second Street or any other corridor, we need to make sure we put those local residents first,” Deputy Mayor Rex Richardson said at the meeting.