The list of outdoor dining options in Belmont Shore could continue to grow after the city gave preliminary approval for Aroma di Roma coffee shop to install a permanent parklet on the Second Street corridor.
The proposed 98-square-foot parklet was OK’d by the city’s zoning administrator Monday afternoon, potentially clearing the way for Aroma di Roma to add about seven seats outdoors. It already has an existing sidewalk dining area that it’s also trying to get permitted through a different city process.
Some residents in the area have opposed the construction of such outdoor dining parklets, and they’ve argued that removing parking spaces to allow private businesses to seat more people amounts to a giveaway of public land that could further exacerbate the parking shortage. They’ve also argued that the parklets are unsafe for pedestrians and people with disabilities who have to navigate congested sidewalks while servers cut across the public right of way to deliver food.
Opponents said Monday that the application should be denied, citing that the project would interfere with the neighboring businesses’ frontage, among other complaints.
“This is a giveaway of the highest order — extending a business’s profit-making potential at a great cost to the public,” said Brian Cochrane, one of the co-founders of the Parking Not Parklets group that has challenged multiple parklet projects in the area.
The decision can be appealed to the city’s Planning Commission, and once the permit is approved, there is a 30-day window in which residents can file a separate appeal that triggers a City Council hearing.
City staff acknowledged that the parking space Aroma di Roma wants to convert is not directly in front of the storefront and does violate the city’s guidelines for how parklets should be configured, but they added that those were guidelines, not rules.
“In this case, our city traffic engineer weighed in and decided it is way more productive to take up one parking space than two, for the good of the public,” said Manuel Salgado, an engineering technician with the Public Works Department.
Some of the restaurants in the Belmont Shore section of Second Street that are in the approval process are Simmzy’s, Nick’s on 2nd, George’s Greek Cafe and Panama Joe’s, according to a city email provided to the Long Beach Post.
Responding to concerns about car speeds on Second Street affecting safety in parklets, Paul Van Dyk, the city’s traffic engineer, said that the city is expected to reduce the speed limit on Second Street to 20 miles per hour, with added enforcement, by the end of the year.
Van Dyk said the city is also working to increase the number of loading zones and ADA-accessible parking spaces along the corridor. Opponents of parklets have pointed to delivery trucks parking in front of bus stops and blocking other portions of the right of way to make deliveries to the businesses in the area.
Part of the conditions of approval for the Aroma di Roma parklet is that the shop needs to encourage deliveries to happen in the parking lot behind the building where it’s located, something its owner, Tim Terrell, said was already happening.
Terrell said his business would also be looking to increase the amount of rideshare reimbursements it provides for employees who pay for rides to work and would also promote the business district’s bus pass program, which is available to employees on Second Street to cut down on the number of parking spaces used by workers.
“We’re better equipped than most,” Terrell said, pointing to the nine parking spaces available behind Aroma di Roma’s building.
The city has also continuously pointed to public parking lots within a one-half-mile radius of the corridor, something that has roiled opponents who don’t believe people will park that far away to patronize shops on the corridor.
Scott Kinsey, the city’s acting zoning administrator, said Monday that it’s a valid data point and is quickly becoming a standard used by the state when talking about access to parking. There are about 1,850 spaces within that radius, the majority of which are located at city-owned beach parking lots.
“But those parking lots do exist and they do take some parking load off the area even if it’s not for the businesses in Belmont Shore,” Kinsey said before approving the parklet to move forward.