Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Santa Monica Pandemic Dining Parklets Could Become Permanent, Usurping Parking Spaces and Placing Diners in Harm's Way

The dining parklets are already a symbol of the contradictory messages and illogic of the county and city's COVID-19-related ordinances.

Santa Monica city staff plan to propose making "parklets" permanent, the outdoor dining areas set up in parking areas along city streets. The otherwise illegal outdoor dining, usurping parking spots, was instituted as a way to allow restaurants to stay in business by allowing on-site dining. Indoor dining is still prohibited by the County of Los Angeles.

The dining parklets can be seen along Lincoln Boulevard, Montana Avenue, and Main Street. The outdoor dining areas appear well-used, despite the fact diners are inches from vehicles hurtling past them at 35 miles per hour or more. Under normal conditions, the withdrawal of parking places and the placement of seated diners mere inches from moving cars would not have been approved by city officials.

However, now Economic Development Manager Jennifer Taylor is reported by the Daily Press saying city staff plan to ask the council to make the parklets permanent. She said the Main Street Merchants Association surveyed its members, asking if the outdoor parklets had helped them and if they would like to keep them. Unsurprisingly, the merchants liked the parklets. But the merchants are not considering the overall welfare of the neighborhood nor the headache of traffic and parking. Certainly, they are not considering the very real possibility of traffic accidents.

The dining parklets are already a symbol of the contradictory messages and illogic of the county and city's COVID-19-related ordinances. Seated diners do not need to wear masks as they eat even though they are passed within inches by pedestrians who are required to wear masks. Magically, the virus does not transmit from the person seated and eating but will transmit from the person walking beside them. And if you are moving, you must be at least 30 feet away from others if you want to go without a mask. Because the virus approves of eating but not moving?

In keeping with the contradictory, hypocritical, and disingenuous messages, Peter James, Chief Operating Officer of Strategic Initiatives, Public Works, is quoted saying, "...we definitely anticipate the need to formalize a permanent part of the (outdoor dining) program given that these parklets have absolutely saved dozens of businesses."

Really? The only reason the businesses were in trouble in the first place was because of government "emergency" ordinances that shut them down. It wasn't as though Main Street was languishing economically until the parklets came along. Their problem was the official reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. And why should the parklets be formalized as permanent unless Mr. James is anticipating the emergency ordinances (and perhaps the pandemic itself) are permanent?

Outdoor-only dining is not sustainable in the long term. Restrictions on the public's ability to gather, congregate, and do business are not sustainable in the long term. And our public officials had better not be thinking along those lines.


Reader Comments(2)

Padretimo writes:

We will be in this pandemic mitigation phase for many months to come and who knows what will be next. It is time to rethink roadway use. Repurposing pavement from city center private automobiles to transportation alternatives would free up room for well developed outdoor dining and other public activities (enabled by our fortunate weather) that would better serve Santa Monica's future. Now is the time to have this important debate.

UrbanWalker writes:

Perfectly said.