As COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the City of San Luis Obispo is deciding whether to keep some pandemic-era changes, like dining parklets.
The city installed the outdoor dining parklets for restaurants when indoor operations were shut down.
The parklets are spaces that are built out onto the street and utilize parking space in front of the businesses, at no cost to the restaurants.
Luke Schwartz is the transportation manager with the City of San Luis Obispo. He said the city is asking people to fill out a survey about whether to keep the parklets.
“We’re basically asking — ‘Have you used our parklets? If so, do you support it? Do you find it to be a positive attribute or addition to the community and would you like to see something like this [permanently] moving forward?” Schwartz said.
Schwartz said there is a potential for the parklets to be removed altogether but the feedback the city has received about them so far has been mostly positive.
“While anything is possible, our long-term vision for the downtown is more of a walkable, people-oriented, pedestrian district,” Schwartz said.
He said there are several factors that will need to be considered with any decision.
“With the parklets, the trade-offs are loss of on-street parking capacity.. [and] a cost to the city in administering this program,” Schwartz said.
Schwartz said lost parking meter revenue, installation and maintenance fees all add up.
He said building a basic parklet costs between $6,000 and $8,000 per parking space it occupies. After installation, the city estimates additional yearly costs of up to $6,000 per space.
The initial costs pay for things like a level decking system, barriers, planter boxes, curb stops and flex posts.
Schwartz said custom, more permanent parklets can cost up to $100,000 depending on the kinds of amenities utilized.
If the parklets stay, Schwartz said there will be talks about sharing the costs with businesses by incurring some kind of fee.
Schwartz said there are some restaurants that have opted to remove their parklets due to limited staffing and desire to keep the street parking in front of their businesses.
But a representative of Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant in Downtown SLO said they love their parklet and want to keep it. They said it’s been positive for business in the last year.
More than 5,000 people have already responded to the survey. It will stay open until June 17.
Responses will then be brought to a public study session with the city council on July 20. Community members are invited to attend.