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Parklets Come Up Again: City Wants to Hear Concerns

Long Beach Traffic Engineer to attend parking commission meeting to "learn from the commission any concerns regarding 'parklets' ... specific to the Belmont Shore business district."

The controversial 'parklets' are again up for discussion before the Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Area Commission, this time at 8 a.m. Thursday, when the City of Long Beach Traffic Engineer is appearing to "learn any concerns."

It remains unclear why the use of public street parking for restaurant dining has been reintroduced before the advisory commission. It is not clear from the agenda who is proposing or pursuing the idea; the public parking is within the coastal zone, and there has been no discussion of where customers and residents would park rather than in parking spaces that would effectively be privatized.

The agenda reads as if the City of Long Beach is exploring the possibility, but the meeting has received no publicity.

City of Long Beach Traffic Engineer Dave Roseman was not immediately reachable when Patch called at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday for details about parklets in Belmont Shore. 

Terry Enderson, vice president of the Belmont Shore Residents Association, strongly opposes the idea and stated his reasons in a Patch piece earlier this year:

“Parklets on 2nd Street would eliminate existing parking spaces and would ignore existing parking requirements for businesses,” Enderson said. “Each parklet would possibly add 20 seats. Where are these additional patrons to park in this parking impacted neighborhood?”

Originally designed to add landscaping and greenery to the streets of San Francisco--where streets and public rights-of-ways comprise more area than public parks--the “Pavement to Parks” program has already been adopted in Long Beach and altered to increase restaurant seating, making it the first Southern California city to do so.

That location on Fourth Street’s Retro Row at Lola’s Mexican Cuisine and in the East Village at Berlin by Portfolio, where the parklets are expected to provide increased business, are not parking-impacted like Belmont Shore. On Second Street, about 250 businesses are crammed snugly into a thoroughfare and the 15 side streets that intersect it.

While it’s unclear how enthusiastic Second Street business owners are about removing any of the already scarce parking, not all are opposed to the idea.

Earlier this year, at a meeting of the Belmont Shore Business Association, Demetrios “Jimmy” Loizidesone, one of the owners of George’s Greek Cafe  located at 5316 E. Second St., expressed interest in installing a parklet, sparking a "heated debate," according to the Gazettes.com.

This month's parking commission meeting will be held at 8 a.m. Thursday at the Bay Shore Library, 195 Bay Shore Avenue.

The parking commission's role is to "[recommend] to the Mayor and City Council solutions to parking problems in Belmont Shore and the best utilization of funds obtained from the parking meters in Belmont Shore," according to the Commission's web pages, quoted in a previous Patch article How the Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Commission Works.  

On the commission's agenda for Thursday, it reads as follows:  

RECOMMENDATION: Recommendation to receive and file a discussion with City of Long
Beach Public Works Department staff regarding “parklets”.

DISCUSSION

On November 1, 2011 the City Council approved a request by Lola’s Mexican Cuisine restaurant
(2030 E. Fourth Street) for a permit to construct a “parklet” for the purpose of providing additional
outdoor dining space. A “parklet” is the temporary use of a curbside parking space for outdoor
landscape and seating. This is done by constructing a raised platform in the parking space at the
same elevation as the adjoining sidewalk, thereby essentially extending the sidewalk area into
the street. The City of San Francisco has been permitting these uses for sometime, and Lola’s
“parklet” was completed on January 20, 2012, making it the first “parklet” in Southern California.
Subsequent to the “parklet” constructed at Lola’s, another one has been installed at Berlin by
Portfolio, located at 420 E. Fourth Street. A third “parklet” location has been installed at the
restaurant Number Nine, which is located at 2118 E. Fourth Street.

In attendance at the November 15, 2012 BSPBIAAC meeting will be the City of Long Beach
Traffic Engineer to discuss City policy regarding “parklets”. The City of Long Beach would
respectfully appreciate learning from the commission any concerns regarding “parklets” that
would be specific to the Belmont Shore business district.

RECOMMENDATION
Approve recommendation.

William Lorbeer November 21, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Mr. Greet, Respectfully, I think your focus on only residency misses the mark. Like you, many of the Commissioners, have significant connections to the BS community and long histories here, and most have much more than just business interests here. For example, I was a Shore resident for 20 years (first 4 years on the PC) and I still own both residential and commercial property in the Shore. Mr. Schnieter, another of Ruehle's favorite targets, and Mr. Trossen both have commercial and residential property interests in the Shore. All three of us live in the surrounding community - Belmont Heights and Naples. Lisa Ramelow, Mr. Trossen's replacement, lives in BS with her family, owns a business in BS, and with her family also owns commercial and residential property in the Shore. While only two of the current commissioners may live in the Shore, a majority of them have lived in the Shore and currently own interests in residential properties here. While there may be a perception, significantly promoted by our good buddy Mike, that these commissioners are anti-resident - it just isn't true. However, your real concern seems to be the Commission's focus on business interests over residential interests. The PC's purpose is to focus on business interests - that's what it was formed to do. The PC's taxing and spending boundaries are essentially the boundaries of business district. We don't have the authority to spend any funds in residential neighborhood.
John B. Greet November 21, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Mr. Lorbeer, thank you very much for the comprehensive response. Parklets aside (because it seems that the overall consensus from both stakeholder groups seems to be against attempting them in Belmont Shore or, at the very least, anywhere along 2nd Street) I do understand why the Commission was formed. The phrase "business improvement" is included in the Commission's rather tortuous name, after all. It is not my intent to diminsh the motivations or commitments of the majority of Commission members. I simply seek to point out that where public funds and public properties are concerned, the public (as properly represented by residents) should have more input and representation on a City Commission. In my view, the fact that the streets, sidewalks and other hardscape and public facilities along 2nd Street exist within a "business district" does not make them any less owned by the *people* of Long Beach, not the *businesses* of Long Beach. Likewise the revenue generated from 2nd Street parking meters is not business revenue but public funds that the public (rather than businesses) should have more input concerning. The Commission should be equally balanced: An equal number of non-business owning/managing residents, with an equal number of business owner/managers plus a Chair who can qualify as both and which should have the unanimous approval of both stakeholder groups. Public properties + public revenues (should) = balanced public representation.
William Lorbeer November 29, 2012 at 06:14 AM
Mr. Greet, I'm sorry for my delayed response. I just found your last comment. I sincerely appreciate your respectful comments and logical thought process. In a different situation, and not knowing what I know, I might even agree with you. Respectfully, I have a different opinion and here is why: Sometime in late 60's or early 70's, the three major or larger public parking lots on the south side of 2nd Street where acquired and developed. A city commission, arguably the current commission's predecessor, with a roughly equal numbers of business and residential representatives was formed for this purpose. Sometime later, a majority of the businesses agree to create an assessment for their common benefit and the BSBA was formed. Several parking studies were completed and recommended development of additional parking facilities. To assist with funding the development of additional parking facilities, in the late 80's the commercial property owners in Belmont Shore agreed to a voluntary additional property tax (Mello-Roos property tax) under a proviso that the City would give local control over parking meter revenue - so funds from both sources (taxes and meters) could be used for parking improvements. A commission for each fund or source of funds - three or more separate commissions - was considered unworkable. It was decided that one commission could serve all of the business and public interests and effectively advise the City Council.
William Lorbeer November 29, 2012 at 06:46 AM
In 1989, the original parking commission was dissolved and the BSPBIAA formed. The PC was given responsibility for the parking facilities and the three funds: BSBA's budget, property taxes, and parking meter revenue. The PC's structure includes: 3 business owners, 3 commercial property owners, and 1 resident. Two of the 3 business owners must be directors of the BSBA. This structure gives the BSBA some representation, which is appropriate as the PC has oversight over their assessments and budget. It doesn't seem appropriate to give residents control over the BSBA's activities or funds. The structure also gives the commercial property owners representation, which is appropriate as they voluntarily contribute additional property taxes to the City/Commission. The original agreement between the property owners and the City - local control of the parking meter revenue in exchange for a voluntary property tax - also supports their representation. Moreover, the business owners and commercial property owners (not the residents) helped pay for the development of the original three larger lots through another assessment (roughly 1/2 of the total parking lot spaces). As such, not withstanding the original proviso, it seems fair that the business community have some control over the meter revenue which they helped create. For all of these reasons, I believe the current structure fairly represents those who have historically contributed to the business district's improvement.
William Lorbeer November 29, 2012 at 06:59 AM
Last, the residential community is also well represented. As I explained in prior comments, all of the current commissioners are area residents - living in Belmont Shore or surrounding neighborhoods. As I've also stated previously, a number of the current commissioners (at least three) that do not live in Belmont Shore own residential property in Belmont Shore (myself included) and therefore have interests similar to other residential property owners in Belmont Shore. So at least five (a significant majority) of the seven current commissioners either live in Belmont Shore or own residential property in Belmont Shore. Suggesting that these commissioners do not have similar interests to other residents and property owners in Belmont Shore seems very untenable to me.

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