Huntington Beach

Council puts the hold on parklets

MAIN STREET in downtown Huntington Beach (Flickr/Dan Lund).

Buffeted by uncertainty all around, the Huntington Beach City Council on Monday night hit the “pause” button on a proposal to close one block of Main Street near the pier to motor traffic and equip it with “parklets” for outdoor dining.

After a lengthy discussion and many questions, the council voted 7-0 to delay a decision on the concept. City officials will meet with business and property owners in the affected area – between Olive and Walnut Avenue – and then take the matter up again at a special meeting on June 29.

Among the issues which led to the delay on a decision were:

  • do the owners and merchants really want the street closed?
  • what will the true eventual cost be?
  • how would issues with the homeless be handled?
  • is using the $1.7 million COVID-19 relief money from the federal government for this project the best use of that revenue?

What’s proposed is a two-month pilot project, an agreement to boost outdoor commerce as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The deal would be to pay Choura Events up to $175,000 (with a 20 percent contingency) to transform the closed block into a venue for a collection of parklets with umbrellas, bistro lights, planter boxes, and seating for 20 each.

Seven such parklets would be brought onto the block between Olive and Walnut, with a 24-foot fire lane and pedestrian walkway on one side.

But it was uncertain whether most members of the downtown Business Improvement District were in favor. A survey there garnered support, but the “poll” only had a 28 percent return rate.

Councilmember Erik Peterson had other ideas for the federal money. He proposed that some of it be devoted to more thorough and regular cleaning of restrooms at the beach and city parks, as well as other downtown facilities.

“Every time I go to the parking structure, it smells of urine,” he said.

Mayor Lyn Semeta made the final remarks on the topic. “I always been one who though that closing all or part of Main Street could be a fabulous idea,” she said. “But if they don’t want it … we’re getting such mixed messages. I tonight would not be comfortable voting to go forward with this tonight.”

Also on Monday night, the council continued to the June 29 meeting a public hearing on the proposed 2020-21 municipal budget.

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