With the state now fully operational, what should be done with the parklets, sidewalk dining, and street closures that were put in place to deal with the pandemic? An informal poll of 606 local businesses, residents, property owners, and visitors was undertaken by the Downtown Long Beach Alliance, and the findings were mixed.
While the vast majority of residents and business owners indicated support for the street closures, a number of people raised concern about noise, rubbish, and the appearance of the parklets.
“It appears as though a makeshift circus has set up shop,” one reviewer observed. “It would be fantastic if there was some sort of coordination,” another person stated.
Small businesses that participated in the city’s Open Streets Initiative—whether by setting up a parklet or sidewalk dining, or simply by being located on a traffic-free street section—were unanimously favorable of the initiative.
88 percent of the companies that took part in the program in some capacity expressed a desire for it to continue. The majority of those who responded claimed to have spent between $10,000 and $19,999 on sidewalk operations, parklets, or street closures, with some claiming to have spent more than $50,000.
Mr. Ron Hodges owns Shannon’s Junction, which is located on the corner of Broadway and Pine Avenue and contains a variety of businesses. He expressed disappointment when his part of Broadway was reopened to vehicular traffic. According to Hodges, “it’s a shame,” because the closed-off roadway may be used for future concerts and events in the future.
Others were relieved to see that portions of the street had been restored after being closed for several hours.
The street closure would have made it impossible for Terry Antonelli, the proprietor of the newly rebuilt L’Opera, to provide valet parking to his customers, which he considers to be a vital service for his customers.
For Antonelli, “getting people to come to the restaurant would be a major undertaking.” Despite the fact that she did not participate in the study, Antonelli expressed discontent with the appearance of the parklets, as did a large number of other respondents.
Specifically referring to the parklets, he asserted that “there was no policing on persons just drinking on the street.” “It just appeared to be a disaster to me.”
Following the pandemic, it is unclear how the Open Streets idea would succeed in the wake of the reopening of portions of Pine Avenue, while many parklets remain closed.
In its survey results report, the Downtown Long Beach Alliance recommended clear guidelines for parklet designs, improved signage for loading, delivery, and parking options around street closures, and “more consideration of who maintains and cleans the public space between parklets in street closures.”
DLBA President and CEO Kraig Kojian stated in a news release that “we appreciated the opportunity to take proactive steps to provide guidance on the success and problems of the Open Streets program, which is clearly viewed as a lifeline for businesses.”
According to Kojian, the Downtown Los Angeles Business Association remains committed to collaborating with the community to provide Downtown businesses with the resources and tools they need to address economic recovery challenges, such as grants and educational opportunities.