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Main Street in Santa Monica Poised to Get 2 Parklets

A parklet on York Blvd. in Highland Park. Photo from People St.
A parklet on York Blvd. in Highland Park. Photo from People St.

Update: The Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved three locations for the city’s pilot parklet program. The three locations include the two recommended by staff and a third at Main and Hill in front of Finn McCool’s.

The Santa Monica City Council next Tuesday will consider giving the go-ahead to the beachside city’s first two parklets -- small public open-space expansions of the sidewalk that usually replace on-street parking stalls.

If approved by the City Council, the parklet pilot program will begin with two locations on Main Street -- one of the city's most popular commercial districts -- and will be a public-private partnership in which the city constructs the parklets and contracts with local businesses for operation and maintenance. The city is proposing the parklets be roughly a block apart with one in front of Holy Guacamole (at Ashland and Main) and the other in front of Ashland Hill, formerly Wildflour Pizza (between Ashland and Hill on Main).

"The pilot would be a public experiment with the Main Street community to temporarily test this new concept in the public realm," according to the staff report. "The parklet design would be temporary and easily reversible, should the pilot demonstrate the need for design changes."

As proposed, the parklet pilot program will last a year, “but may end earlier if public safety issues arise,” according to city staff.

“‘Parklets (transforming small urban spaces such as on-street parking stalls into public space and/or landscaping) has become increasingly common across America, but has not yet been authorized in Santa Monica," according to the staff report. In the report, city officials point to the success of parklet programs in San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.

A parklet on Spring St. in Downtown Los Angeles. Photo via People St.
A parklet on Spring St. in Downtown Los Angeles. Photo via People St.

Los Angeles, through its People St. program, has seen a number of parklets pop up in recent year, including the one on York Street pictured above. In Downtown L.A., there is also a parklet on Spring Street.

"Parklets introduce new streetscape features such as seating, planting, bicycle parking, or elements of play. Parklets encourage pedestrian activity by offering these human-scale 'eddies in the stream,' which is especially beneficial in areas that lack sufficient sidewalk width or access to public space," according to the People St. website.

As proposed, Santa Monica would shoulder the initial construction of the "shell" of the two parklets on Main Street, after which the respective businesses would be responsible for maintenance and other aspects.

"The shell will be constructed to meet safety and accessibility standards such as Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance (e.g. barriers and a flush surface with the sidewalk). Once the locations are approved, the design and construction phase will be approximately six months, which is consistent with the length of time it takes in San Francisco to design and construct a parklet once permits have been issued," according to the staff report.

Preliminary parklet designs for Main Street. Image via city of Santa Monica.
Preliminary parklet designs for Main Street. Image via city of Santa Monica.

According to the staff report, the operators will also be required to assure that the parklets are free and open to the public. As proposed, restaurants would not be able to use the space for table service, though patrons could use the parklets to eat takeout orders. The restaurants would also be required to provide the street furniture and plants for the space, address complaints, and maintain insurance to cover the space.

While the city is recommending that the program start with two parklets, the Main Street Business Improvement District has suggested four locations for initial parklets, according to the staff report. Council will have final say over whether the project or some variation of it moves forward.

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