PALM SPRINGS — Parklets, popular in Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego, Santa Monica, and Morro Bay could soon be coming to downtown as a way to expand outdoor dining on the famed Palm Canyon Drive and other public streets.

Expanded outdoor dining would help aid economic recovery in ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Parklets are public seating platforms that convert curbside parking spaces into vibrant community spaces. Also known as street seats or curbside seating, parklets are the product of a partnership between the city and local businesses, residents, or neighborhood associations, according to the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

Most parklets have a distinctive design that incorporates seating, greenery, and/or bike racks and accommodate unmet demand for public space on thriving neighborhood retail streets or commercial areas.

The City Council on Thursday, Aug. 20 will consider whether to approve a partial closure of Palm Canyon Drive between Tahquitz Canyon Way and Baristo Road to allow for an expansion of temporary outdoor dining into the public right-of-way. The meeting will be held at 4 p.m. via Zoom.

Parklets May be Coming to Downtown Palm SpringsCities like San Francisco have successfully installed parklets throughout their city for many years. They are often creatively designed and enhance the pedestrian experience along their streets. The public uses these spaces as they would a park, hence the name parklet. They may grab a latte from a nearby coffee shop, enjoy a sandwich from a neighboring bistro, or meet up with friends as they gather to eat at a nearby restaurant, according to a staff report.

Palm Springs is home to some of the finest dining in the country, but the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted how restaurants and bars can operate and serve the public. Current emergency orders have forced all restaurants to close indoor dining areas, and to only serve the public in outdoor patio areas subject to social distancing and face mask requirements. Bars have been closed, except for those bars that serve “bona fide” meals in the same transaction as any alcoholic beverages in
outdoor areas.

Although a full closure of Palm Canyon Drive is possible, staff recommends that the partial closure of Palm Canyon Drive between Tahquitz Canyon Drive on the north and Baristo Road on the south be approved as a pilot project. If the pilot project is successful, City Council could consider an expansion of the project, including the extension of the partial closure to other areas of Palm Canyon Drive, or the full closure of Palm Canyon Drive.

The partial closure of Palm Canyon Drive is recommended based upon the following:

  • The partial closure of the street will still allow access for emergency vehicles, and will pose fewer impacts to traffic circulation than the full-closure option;
  • The partial closure will have a lesser impact to commercial deliveries, refuse collection, and retail business access;
  • The pilot project will allow staff to assess the impacts and benefits of the closure
    before expanding the concept to additional areas.

For budgeting purposes, staff suggests a budget of $100,000 for all related costs for a partial road closure extending for 1 year. Staff will identify these costs as eligible for reimbursement through the city’s CARES Act funding made available from the state.

Image Sources

  • San-francisco-jane-warner-plaza-copy: National Association of City Transportation Officials