Here comes the K-rail.
Santa Barbara is proposing a series of changes to make outdoor dining parklets safer and the City Council will consider them at Tuesday’s meeting.
“We’re just trying to be safe,” said Brian Bosse, the city’s downtown team manager. “Safety is the No. 1 priority.”
Business owners put up outdoor dining parklets throughout the city after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Three years later, the pandemic is over, but the parklets remain. The city has given its blessing to the parklets, but has utilized a light touch on design and rule enforcement.
Now, the city is proposing that businesses who want outdoor dining submit a plan and pay a $514 pre-application fee so that the city can review the parklet first. For projects in the coastal zone, after paying for the pre-application, fee, businesses would need to pay $5,535 for a coastal development permit.
Among the new suggested rules is that parklets will be limited to the parking space(s) entirely within the frontage of the business. If a parking space straddles the line between two businesses, then it cannot be used for a parklet unless both businesses share the parklet, according to the city.
Traffic and safety protection will also be required for all parklets. The city is suggesting concrete K-rails to minimize damage from accidents.
City staff is also recommending that parklets not be allowed on major arterial roads — two vehicle lanes going in the same direction. Under that proposal, outdoor dining parklets would not be allowed on Milpas Street.
The cost of the outdoor dining after the permits would be $2 a square foot for the public space the business uses.
Businesses who want a parklet in the new year must submit a pre-application no later than Dec. 20. Any existing parklet located in the right of way that does not submit a pre-application by then will be subject to immediate enforcement, according to the city.
The pre-application will help the businesses, Bosse said.
“We don’t want these folks to get denied for something that could have been prevented from the get-go,” Bosse said.
Santa Barbara City Councilwoman Meagan Harmon is optimistic about the future of outdoor dining and the good that would come from a more formal process.
“As we move out of the pandemic-related state of emergency and toward greater permanency, we have a responsibility to ensure that the parklets are safe, fully accessible, and compliant with applicable state and local rules,” she said.
She said she wants the city to work with businesses and hopes the city will “administer this transition as efficiently, affordably, and seamlessly as possible.”
Santa Barbara City Councilwoman Alejandra Gutierrez said she is looking forward to address any proposals that could affect Milpas Street.
“I do believe that we need to get organized with the aftermath that pandemic left with local restaurants owners,” Gutierrez said. “I am hoping we can find a resolution where everyone benefits including those businesses in District 1.”