Parklet workgroup set to begin tackling design standards

Hoping to appease both business owners who have them and critics who dislike them, the city will begin the hard work of tackling design standards for parklets when a workgroup begins meeting Wednesday.

Parklets — public seating platforms and other designs that convert sidewalk areas and curbside parking spaces into usable spaces — were allowed last summer to help restaurant owners provide outdoor seating. At the time, indoor seating was not allowed under state regulations put in place as COVID-19 raged.

The result in downtown Palm Springs was a mix of expensive, elaborately designed structures and others that one resident described as “shanty shacks on our streets,” taking over multiple parking spots. Frustrations mounted when retail shop owners pointed out that while they were not able to display their wares on sidewalks, restaurants were allowed to set up dining spaces free of charge, often hiding the entrances to the retail stores.

City leaders and staff have been vowing to address the issue for months. As discussions about regulations carried on throughout the summer, however, many parklets began to disappear. An informal count last week showed 10 parklets remain between Tamarisk and Baristo roads on Palm Canyon Drive and two are still in place between Baristo Road and East Tahquitz Canyon Way on Indian Canyon Drive.

For those that remain and any planned going forward, the city hopes to put design requirements and other regulations in place. Those discussed recently include:

  • Implementing minimum design standards for all existing and future parklets and removing nonconforming parklets after a period of time still to be determined;
  • Charging business owners a fee for creating parklets on public property;
  • Limiting parklets to areas directly in front of restaurants that build them, without blocking neighboring businesses;
  • Only allowing parklets on streets with a speed limit under 35 mph.

The work to craft recommendations into legislation begins Wednesday at 2 PM. That’s when a group comprised of community members and business owners meets to begin shaping design standards that will eventually come up for a vote before the Palm Springs City Council. More information about that meeting, including an agenda and call-in instructions, can be found here. Public comment is welcome.

“We’re not quite ready yet to tie a bow on the whole thing, especially design standards,” City Manager Justin Clifton told downtown business owners during a July 20 meeting. “… There’s pressure and concern to solve this.”

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