Before the pandemic, businesses were clamoring for the city to install more parklets. (File photo)

Santa Monica is planning to open streets to pedestrians and expand outdoor dining, Interim City Manager Lane Dilg said during a virtual town hall Thursday.

As residents flock to sidewalks and parks for exercise and recreation during the stay-at-home order, Dilg said the city is planning to restrict car traffic on some residential and commercial streets to provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists to practice physical distancing. The city may also allow restaurants to set up outdoor dining areas in the street.

Many residents have for the last two months called on the city to join other cities, including Pasadena, San Diego, Oakland and San Francisco, in setting up a “slow streets” network during the pandemic. 

Dilg said Santa Monica could set up a slow streets network in the immediate future. 

“We’re looking to see where we can take fast action to open a few streets in that model sometime soon,” she said.

Residents have also said they want to see commercial streets converted for pedestrians in a way similar to the Third Street Promenade, she said.

Dilg said she is open to the idea but the city would have to figure out how to reroute emergency vehicles that travel on commercial corridors. 

“That would happen on a slightly longer time frame because we want to make sure we get it right,” she said. 

Officials are working on a plan to allow businesses to open outdoor seating areas in the near future, perhaps by expanding the city’s existing parklets program. The city installed three parklets on Main Street four years ago and restaurants across the city were pushing the city to build more before the pandemic.

The city also loosened alcohol regulations for restaurants last week, in part to help restaurants pad their margins with alcohol sales as they reopen. 

“We hear your need for more space for your restaurants,” Dilg told restaurateurs who attended the Zoom town hall. “We understand that social distancing requirements make it hard to hit the margins you need to continue operating. We know people want to eat in restaurants and do it safely.”

Dilg said although Los Angeles County is aiming to reopen restaurants, stores and malls by July 4, the county will not reopen until it meets public health metrics that demonstrate the epidemic is under control. 

Santa Monica will move into stage three of reopening alongside the rest of the county, she said. The city is working on a phased reopening plan for the Santa Monica Pier and is determining when beach parking lots can be safely reopened — the police department would need to be able to enforce rules against large gatherings on the beach, Dilg added. 

“Reopening could come as early as July 4 if everything goes beautifully, but it could be much longer than that,” she said.

Dilg said the region will have a better chance of meeting that target date if people continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing in public.

Last Thursday, Santa Monica started requiring people to wear face coverings whenever they are in public. The order, which aligns with orders issued by Los Angeles County and the city of Los Angeles, mandates that people wear masks even when they are exercising or not close to other people.

Previously, people were only required to wear masks while visiting essential businesses.

Dilg said police officers can cite people for not wearing masks but are focusing on educating them about the new law before resorting to citations.

“We will likely issue some citations, but it’s not realistic for us to issue thousands of citations,” she said. 

madeleine@smdp.com

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6 Comments

  1. If you feel it’s safe enough to open streets and beach to pedestrians, etc., why not the bike path? Weekdays are light to empty, especially north of the pier. It is a primary exercise path for many residents. Please don’t lump it in with the pier. It is not a fair equivalent. Thank you.

  2. Who is running to his city is full of crap.When Doctors and Nurses wearing a mask does not help. and now we have to wait another month and a half before the pier opens.And when does the retail stores opening September .Over 5 million people have lost their job in Los Angeles. We been closed for over 9 weeks.Now we have to wait for 6 more weeks That will be 15 weeks closed.This months.This is a Socialist Communist Police stated.

  3. By July 4 there will be 25% less business left to open Give small business a break, people need to earn a living and all this political maneuvering is killing our economic life.
    If you open they will cone

  4. My husband has 37 years employed with the city of Santa Monica traffic sign/marking , Yet the city laid off everyone in that dept but for 1 person in that department. The city keep 3 in parking meters and 3 in traffic signals. So how is 1 person going to deliver barricades and place them per the city engineer directions? If they out source the work , how much will that cost? Is what is true amount cut from the budget? He is still fighting per the unions to keep his job. PS the city just purchased 4 very expensive trucks , who’s going to use the bucket truck if you need 2 person? What about the ware house filled with signs, paint and equipment, who’s going to use them? Just one person.

  5. To broach opening up the city when we are part of Los Angeles County that has the most cases of the virus in terms of infection and death rate in California and is one of the three hottest spots for the infection rate in the country is not only ludicrous, but outrageously dangerous and the city manager ought to resign or be taken out of her position. She’s delusional. And people are not using the bike paths and streets to engage in social distancing. It’s being used for the opposite. No wonder we have one of the highest rates in the country. Absolute idiocy on the part of our city manager and those that support a re-opening at this time. These are folks that obviously don’t take seriously that they are endangering others as well as themselves.

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