The deadline is approaching for the end of the temporary parklet program

City of Santa Monica staff are mounting a full press to clarify details of an impending change from the current temporary outdoor dining rules to new permanent guidelines that begin Oct. 1, but many business owners remain frustrated and confused – and some are still hoping the City can backtrack before imposing new fines and restrictions.

Following extensive public feedback from Third Street Promenade restaurateurs, staff and patrons at the Santa Monica City Council meeting on Tuesday, September 13, staff launched an awareness campaign, including an informational event background on parklets – the outdoor dining areas that have taken over parking lanes starting in 2020 as a solution to COVID-19 indoor dining restrictions – held last Friday, September 16 (the day after the deadline for apply for the program), a six-page FAQ document about the new Santa Monica Outdoors program, and two webinars to share details about new fees, restrictions, and changes.

When the switch is flipped on October 1, temporary program participants who have completed applications for the permanent version can continue to operate their existing parklets, but companies who have not filed documents in time must have their spaces cleaned up. parklet or face withdrawal by city employees. .

“By September 30, you must remove your items from the street, as your permit is no longer valid,” Swartz said of restaurants and other businesses that have not applied for the permanent program by September 15. “And the city can come in and remove things. For example, if there are concrete barriers, they can remove them.

Prospects were not good for late applicants, Swartz added.

“You’ll have a swipe to apply, anyway … just know that you’ll have a gap in your operation and the city might even remove some of the stuff there,” Swartz said. “Our priority is to get through these temporary [permits] and getting people who have applied to show up and so if you missed that deadline you can still apply but just be aware that we have around 70 applicants ahead of you so it will be some time before we can have you.

The approximately 70 companies that met the September 15 deadline have until February 28, 2023 to comply and pay any necessary fees to continue operating.

This will involve obtaining approval from the risk management, mobility and public works departments, receiving planning approval, obtaining a public works ‘stamp’ and obtaining an economic development license – but this only affects parklets that do not require further approvals.

Parklets that offer to use propane heaters must obtain special approval from the fire department; those using electric lights, even strands of fairy lights, or awnings or tents (excluding umbrellas) must obtain building and safety approval; and those who serve alcohol must go through the planning department.

Of particular note is the construction and security permit needed for awnings, which Swartz said is best avoided if possible.

“I really encourage everyone to try using umbrellas because the building safety review for these items will be very thorough and could trigger further building upgrades,” Swartz said. “For example, if you add more dining room, that could potentially trigger another bathroom to be added, which is very expensive, so we would encourage umbrellas for that.

One of the main sticking points for business owners and managers who attended the September 20 webinar was the timing and reasoning behind the parklet fee structure. Until now, parklet fees had been scrapped as a pandemic measure, but some new fees start on October 1, with others spanning the five-month transition period.

By the end of the transition period on February 28, companies wishing to retain use of their parklets must have paid a number of fees, including a one-time plan verification fee ($500), a refundable security deposit ($3,500), an annual public works inspection fee ($252.66), monthly license fee ($2.12 per square foot per month), and a whole host of additional optional fees like one-time building and safety plan verification if there is an awning or electric ($626.78) or an annual fire department propane tank permit fee if using outdoor gas heaters ( $358.85).

By far, the most expensive charge is the one-time sewage tie-up fee of $1,358.49 per seat for full-service restaurants and $1,132.08 per seat for fast-food restaurants (which does not do not use servers).

“It’s a one-time fee for the city to know about the sewage generated by the facility,” said Sunny Wang, a water resources official. “So there are fees for – whether it’s a single-family home renovation, a restaurant, a commercial hotel, with a different set of fees that’s calculated…it’s determined by the City of LA since all of our wastewater is currently hauled and treated at the Hyperion City of LA Treatment Plant, so we use the criteria they have established for each of these types and the amount of wastewater generated.

Businesses that moved tables from indoors to outdoors but did not cause a net increase in seating do not have to pay additional fees, Wang said.

“Now these fees only apply if you have a net increase impact,” Wang continued. “So, for example, if you have 40 seats… inside right now in your restaurant and you decide to move 20 of them outside, so your total is still 40, you will not be charged those costs.”

A Blue Plate Oysterette representative presented a specific question: According to David Kianmahd, the company maintains indoor and park seating, but only uses indoor seating when it is raining and the seating outside are closed, never increasing the number of net customers.

Swartz and another City staffer, Joshua Carvalho, said that wouldn’t be a problem – but Cavalho added that the restaurant may need to put up signs on inside tables saying they’re not open to customers.

Other business owners have questioned why they have to pay the same sanitation fees even though they are open with more seats but for more limited hours than before the pandemic. In response, Wang said it was crucial that the city pay for the planned maximum use of sewage.

Speaking in a question-and-answer session on Thursday, Wang said a one-time fee was the only solution.

“Unfortunately, we cannot take into account how your business operates because the city has no way of dictating that as well,” Wang said. “And in a conversation, I believe, with another restaurant earlier in the week, they had said, ‘Well, my water intake hasn’t changed,’ you know, but they stopped the service. from lunch they only do dinner service now Believe it or not this is actually more problematic for a sewage system because you are discharging the same amount of volume in a shorter time now, which means you’re actually sending more peak loads into our wastewater and that actually creates a bigger problem or concern for us to be able to manage that to make sure the system doesn’t overflow.

More information on parklet rules can be found at santamonica.gov/programs/parklets.

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Ryan H. Bowman