Letter to Seal Beach city clerk about parklets

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By David Brunjes

Editor’s note: David Brunjes emailed the following letter to City Clerk Gloria Harper on Monday, Dec. 12, and CC’d the letter to several other recipients including the Sun. The Sun is reprinting the letter with his permission.

Gloria: Why, why, why? Why is the City still considering parklets? There has been no response from the City to the very valid concerns expressed by those who are against the parklets. Namely:

1. Fairness: Parklets, by their very nature, benefit restaurant owners at the expense of non-restaurant business owners. What does the City plan to do to even this out? Should there be some form of compensation to non-restaurant owners for their lost business due to reduced visibility and lost customers due to reduced parking?

2. Sanitation: Since the City has proposed a raised deck type surface for the parklets, how does the City propose that they be maintained in a sanitary manner? Particles of food will be dropped between the cracks of the surface. Liquids will be spilled. The City cannot maintain the triangular planter/crosswalk areas as it is. How will the area under the decks be cleaned? Move the decks weekly? (He proposes in jest, but how else to clean under the deck?) Where is the plan? BTW, hosing down or power washing outdoor surfaces is illegal unless the dirty runoff is suctioned off or collected and disposed of properly before it enters the drains (which drain directly to the ocean).

3. Cost: The City needs to be realistic in its assessment of what the parklet space is worth. Lease costs per square foot for Main Street are over $3.00. And outdoor / right on Main Street space has more value than off-Main or second floor space. One must also add common area maintenance, City overhead, City administrative, insurance, lost revenue and sales taxes from lost retail/non-restaurant sales, etc… As hard as they may be to quantify, they are real costs. The parklets must pay for these costs – probably approaching $4.00 for every square foot needed for the parklet – whether the parklet uses that square footage directly or whether it is just buffer space – the parklet must pay for that space.

4. What is outdoor dining worth? If the restaurant owners truly believe that the outdoor spaces add value, they can open up the front of their buildings and have outdoor dining on private, not public, property. Sound expensive? You bet it would be. Why should the City underwrite the cost of outdoor dining? Will the City open up parklet space to non-restaurant businesses if they want displays or workshops or just additional retail space? No restaurant owner has come forward arguing that the parklets are necessary as more square footage for their restaurant, just that it is square footage preferred by some customers at certain times. Even so, if the restaurant owners need to expand, they can build or lease more space like every non-restaurant business does.

5. The City ordinance requires that businesses have a certain number of parking spaces per square foot of business. Will the parklet and buffer square footage be added to existing restaurant space to recalculate the number of parking spaces required? Are they aware of the “in-lieu of” parking costs? Are the restaurant owners aware that this is a City ordinance? Just applicable as if a non-business owner added square footage to their building…

6. Good Use Of Space: Parking spaces are arguably used by non-restaurant businesses 7 days a week, 8-10 hours a day. The City has proposed that the parklets only be required to be used a minimum of 6 days a week, 2 meals (maybe 4-7 hours a day)? So when the non-restaurant owners are asked to sacrifice from 56-70 or more hours of benefit from parking per week, the restaurant owners are only asked to promise a minimum of 24-42 hours of productive use per week. Is this fair? Does this make sense? Especially with parking at a premium?

7. Aggravating An Existing Problem: Parklets indisputably reduce parking spaces along Main Street. Is there any subject more frequently discussed than the challenge of adequate parking along Main Street? Maybe we should consider solutions to the parking problem before we aggravate the situation. The City has proposed a bus/ trolley type of system for off Main overflow parking. Really? Does anyone really believe this is a viable alternative to Main Street parking? Let’s see… At best, 10-15 minutes to wait for and load a bus, 3-5 minutes to get there and unload, times 2 for the return trip means that each customer will be asked to spend 25-40 minutes for the “convenience” &/or charm of shopping / supporting Main Street businesses – restaurants included. How long before these businesses die on the vine? And who pays the cost? We have the cost of the trolley / bus, fuel, maintenance, at least 4 full time employees, City overhead, insurance, etc…

All Main Street businesses were glad to support the parklets to help their neighboring restaurants get through Covid. But enough. The City must represent equally, and provide benefits equally, for all businesses. The parklets benefit restaurant businesses at the expense of non-restaurant businesses. I have not heard of any proposal that addresses the concerns expressed above, as well as other concerns. Why won’t the City specifically address these concerns? Why can’t we have an open forum back and forth discussion about these issues? Is it because the City doesn’t have good answers?

Regards, and Happy Holidays –

David Brunjes

Main Street business owner, property owner and proud supporter of smal business – especially Main Street Seal Beach businesses!