Parklets Get Unanimous Council Approval for Dining Space and Community Use

At the August 30, 2021, City Council meeting, the Culver City Council took on the plan for more green space, more outdoor dining, and another strategy to address public health concerns by approving ‘parklets’ in an unanimous agreement. 

While allowing restaurants to have cafe tables in parking spaces, not just downtown but all over the city, was a helpful strategy that came into being because of pandemic restrictions, the shift of more people wanting more public space outdoors has continued. The legislative solution that the city has crafted won the approval of all council members, and the concept looks to both maintain and improve city streets. The ordinance includes waiving the ‘parking fees’ for the ‘parklet’ for a year, making it more affordable for businesses and groups to support one. 

What is a parklet?  It’s a “small seating area or green space created as a public amenity on or alongside a sidewalk, especially in a former roadside parking space.” So, those parking metered spots can be transformed into more tables or more green space. While the council was looking to make things workable for restaurant to continue to use the outdoor space, the parklets can also be used for planters, benches and even shade. 

Many cities have parklet programs, and the popularity of the concept continues to spread. From Seattle, Washington to Montpelier, Vermont, turning parking spaces into people spaces has been a success. Montelier styles itself as “The Parklet Capital of the Country.” 

Council member Daniel Lee offered to make the motion to pass the ordinance, and it was seconded by Council member Yasmine Imani McMorrin. She smilingly noted that “I’m in favor of public use of public space… and there’s still a lot of movement on what’s going on with public health so I want to be respectful of that as well.” 

Mayor Alex Fisch noted ” We have been waiving outdoor dining fees, so maybe we can just [schedule these together.]” 

But City Manager John Nachbar disagreed. “The waiver on outdoor dining fees will expire at the end of the calendar year, so I don’t think you can make these co-terminus.” 

While parklets are often ‘sponsored’ by restaurants as more dining space, the council has left it open to sponsorship by any local business or organization that wants to create one. 

The motion passed with five ayes, and the next phase of celebrating the commons will begin. 

Judith Martin-Straw

Photo Credit – Architecture firm Gensler-designed parklets in Washington D.C. from Architecture Magazine


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