Oceanside considers curbside parklets

OCEANSIDE — A City Council workshop was held on Wednesday to consider drafting regulations for curbside parklets.

Parklets are temporary extensions of the sidewalk that allow extra seating, and a place to gather. They usually fill two parking spaces and include a railing or landscaped barrier between seating and traffic. Parklets have the potential to provide traffic calming, beauty and a sense of place.

Workshop discussion was prompted by a request from Pier View Coffee Company to build a parklet in front of their downtown business over a year ago. City staff found there were no regulations in place.

Mike Bayer, coffee shop representative, said the business hired an architect, and presented the idea to the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce with positive feedback.

He added downtown construction and a raise in the minimum wage have made business tough.

“If we can get people to stay longer at our business, it will improve our margins,” Bayer said. “We’re in the survival mode. It will take two parking spaces for my business to survive.”

City Council favored holding off on allowing parklets until downtown construction, which is reducing parking spaces, is further along. Construction is expected to be completed in two years.

In the meantime staff was directed to draft regulations for future use. Interim City Manager Michelle Lawrence said she would work with the coffee shop to find allowable outdoor seating.

“It’s just not the right time for this request,” Councilwoman Esther Sanchez said. “It’s very challenging with the loss of 1,000 parking spots downtown (over the years, due to new development).

Workshop discussion began with planning staff presenting an overview of designs, usage and city regulations on parklets in California. Carlsbad has a pilot program that allows parklets for private use, and charges businesses an encroachment fee.

City Council voiced favor for parklets for public use, with high quality design, built and maintained by businesses. The cost to build a temporary parklet is estimated at $30,000.

The discussion initially considered parklets in the downtown area, and then expanded to allowance along Coast Highway.

Councilman Chuck Lowery said it would not be necessary to have regulations for parklets within business parks, since that would be an agreement between the business park owner and businesses.

Speakers voiced concern about allowing parklets on busy streets or corners.

“They’re not meant for any type of major street,” John Daley, Oceanside resident and business owner, said. “They enhance walkability in a community, and enhance bike-ability in a community.”

City Council asked staff to look into city rates for spaces, guidelines for public and private use, and enforcement.

There was also discussion about discouraging homeless individuals from loitering in public parklets. Sanchez said waiting on future downtown growth would naturally fill parklets with customers.

“We’re not there yet,” Sanchez said. “With more presence downtown, more public presence day and night, it will chase away some of the homeless issues.”

Draft policies will be brought back to the City Council to consider, along with a possible pilot study.

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