Small public seating areas could replace parking spaces in downtown Santa Monica and along Montana Avenue.
The city installed three parklets along Main Street two years ago with the goal of making the area more lively and pedestrian-oriented. Holy Guacamole, Ashland Hill and Jameson’s, formerly Finn McCool’s, are now taking over maintenance of the benches, tables and chairs stationed on wooden platforms outside their storefronts.
“We’d like them to be up and down the street,” said Anthony Schmitt, chair of the Main Street Business Improvement Association (MSBIA). “They create a great sense of community and that’s what we really want to continue to grow.”
City Council will vote Tuesday whether to build more parklets on Main Street and other commercial streets. But unlike the initial launch of the Main Street parklets, the rollout may not be funded by the city.
Instead, the city’s planners recommend letting businesses build parklets at their own expense. Parklets in other cities are typically funded by businesses, said associate planner Russell Bunim. Even with private funding, however, the city would still have to maintain staff to process applications and provide oversight.
“We’re looking at opportunities for parklets because they’ll be better for businesses,” said MAMA co-chair Kenneth Geary. “A lot of the time when we’re doing an art show, or a sidewalk sale or entertainment out on the street, the lack of space becomes an issue.”
Schmitt said MSBIA is exploring sponsorship or other private funding opportunities to build the parklets, which cost $30,000 each.
“We have to create some avenue for funding because I don’t think it’s fair to have the tenant taking care of it be the only one supporting it financially,” he said. “It’s a benefit for all of us.”
The association may look to the corporate partners that helps produce Main Street’s Summer SOULstice festival to bring the idea to fruition, Schmitt said.
“We’re thinking naming or sponsorship that’s minimal but bringing eyes to their business,” he said. “We could share financial responsibilities.”
City Council will also discuss the findings of a UCLA study on the Main Street parklets, which found that Holy Guacamole’s parklet drew 11 visitors per hour, Finn McCool’s drew four and Ashland Hill’s drew just one.
The UCLA study made several recommendations for future parklets, including that materials must be more durable and sites thoroughly evaluated for potential problems. The parklet at Ashland Hill has become sun-faded and weathered and developed drainage issues.
Researchers also said the parklets should be publicly accessible and not tied to any one business in order to truly enhance the streetscape.