Outdoor Dining: Making It Permanent

First published in the Oct. 23 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

They will be gone, but not for long.
After removing several al fresco dining zones ahead of the Montrose Arts & Crafts Festival this weekend, the city of Glendale aims to replace the popular spaces at the Montrose Shopping Park area with more thoughtfully designed and built parklets. While the prior areas, divided from parking spots by concrete K-rail barriers, were intended as a temporary solution to coronavirus pandemic restrictions, the parklets figure to be a part of the shopping park for the foreseeable future.
The City Council agreed unanimously in a special meeting on Tuesday to kick off construction of five parklets and apportion up to $400,000 in unused Measure S funding as well as pandemic recovery money to pay for them. VX Design Solutions will construct and install the amenities.
“We’ve all gotten emails from residents that enjoy having dinner in Montrose and we’ve heard from retail owners that this brings customers to them,” Mayor Paula Devine said on Tuesday. “I’m really pleased with the outcome of these discussions.”
The parklets will be placed along the 2400, 2300 and 2200 blocks of Honolulu Avenue, in rhombus shapes taking up two diagonal street parking spaces. They will be elevated to be level with the sidewalk, helping them to be compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. To be more picturesque than the industrial look of the K-rails, wood and metal will be the principal visible materials. Tables might have their own umbrellas, or canvas panels could be strapped end-to-end up create shade.
“That is something we can decide on a location-by-location basis — some have a very nice tree canopy that help protect them already — but this does provide sort of a sense of enclosure,” Bradley Calvert, assistant director of community development, said of the shade options.
Parklets are to be placed in front of:
• Joselito’s, to seat 16-20 people
• Bluefish and Basin 141, to seat 24-28 people
• Thee Elbow Room, to seat 24-28 people
• Big Mama’s & Papa’s Pizzeria, to seat 24-28 people
• Town and Kitchen Grill, to seat 24-28 people
The plan resulted from efforts by city officials, the Montrose Shopping Park Association and a task force to find a happy medium for restaurateurs who relished the dine-in opportunities during the pandemic and retailers who balked at losing valuable parking spaces for customers. The forthcoming setup will remove only 10 parking spots from Honolulu, as opposed to the 33 that had been blocked off throughout the Shopping Park by K-rails.
“I do understand that there may be an imposition on businesses that cannot offer dining to their customers, but I think the plan presented is a nice balance,” Councilman Ara Najarian said. “We’ve gone from, a few months ago, ‘Absolutely no outdoor dining, tear them out’ to ‘Yes, we want more, more is better.’ This is a nice compromise, I think, and I think it will add to the ambience both in Montrose and in the downtown area.”
With the new parklets, the city also is poised to reinstate sidewalk dining permit fees, which are $224 plus $2.24 per square foot. Calvert also successfully lobbied the city to assess the eateries for the municipality’s loss of parking space revenue, which is around $4,500 per space. This amounts to approximately $10,568 as an annual cost for each restaurant parklet.
“My hope is that retail and restaurants will be good neighbors to each other, and they can reach some sort of resolution on how fees are paid,” Devine said.
Construction is expected to last from Monday, Nov. 1, to Thursday, Dec. 30.
Calvert indicated that his office continues to work on similar plans for a permanent al fresco system in the city’s central area in collaboration with the Downtown Glendale Business Association. The scale of that operation, which runs along Brand Boulevard, is prolonging work here, but Calvert said he anticipated being able to start fabrication in January.
“We need a little bit more time to work with downtown in order to develop their designs,” he said.