‘Shanty shacks on our streets:’ City to clamp down on some parklets

More rules governing outdoor restaurant seating on downtown streets and sidewalks could go into place following discussion by city officials Thursday evening that followed concerns raised by the public.

Among recommendations presented to the Palm Springs City Council to help improve and regulate “parklets” — public seating platforms and other designs that convert sidewalk areas and curbside parking spaces into usable spaces — city staff recommended:

  • Implementing minimum design standards for all existing and future parklets and removing nonconforming parklets after a period of time still to be determined;

  • Charging business owners a fee for creating parklets on public property;

  • Limiting parklets to areas directly in front of restaurants that build them, without blocking neighboring businesses;

  • Only allowing parklets on streets with a speed limit under 35 mph; and

  • Re-opening Arenas Road and allowing lane reductions on Palm Canyon Drive to remain

No new regulations were put into place Thursday during the Council’s regular meeting. Instead, city staff were instructed to compile new regulations into a measure that can be voted on in the coming months.

Parklets were popular in many California cities prior to the pandemic. They were only allowed on Palm Canyon Drive last summer to aid restaurant owners after state and local regulations forced dozens of restaurants to stop seating patrons inside. As the city emerges from pandemic restrictions, however, staff and elected officials agreed creating equity for both restaurants and retail businesses is a priority.

“I’m really concerned about the impact on retail,” Councilmember Geoff Kors said during discussion Thursday evening. “You can hear the concern in their voices.”

“It’s just not fair to block anybody else’s business,” added Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton.

Councilmembers’ sentiments echoed those voiced by the public and some retail business owners during a comment session earlier in the evening. Speakers called out the lack of uniform design, difficulties navigating sidewalks where parklets are built, and the fact some retail businesses are blocked by restaurant sidewalk seating.

“One night a week there’s demand for them,” said Matt Robinson, a vocal critic of the parklets. “The rest of the week they sit there like shanty shacks on our streets”

Many cities that allowed parklets prior to the pandemic had time to solicit community input and craft specific regulations that, among other things, require them to be open to the public and meet certain design standards. Palm Springs, hoping to rush to the aid of many restaurant owners, offered some design guidelines, but did not require structures built by private businesses on public streets be open to the public.

The result was a mix of parklets taking over sidewalks and parking spaces along Palm Canyon Drive. While some restaurant owners built expensive, elaborately-designed structures, others simply placed plastic tables and chairs on the sidewalk or designed structures that drew mixed reviews.

The issue came to the forefront during a May meeting of the city’s Business Retention/Economic Development Task Force (first reported in The Post here), where elected officials said they are committed to allowing time for input from all in the community before making any long-term decision.

Also during the Council’s Thursday meeting:

CONCERNS RAISED: The Council heard from staff regarding relocation of homeless services from a South Palm Springs neighborhood to an existing city building near the airport, with one official revealing there have been allegations discussed with her and others about the operations at one of the two proposed service providers.

Well In The Desert and Martha’s Kitchen are slated to team to provide services at the facility — a move that was requested after neighbors and police reported multiple issues with the location of the current Well In The Desert facility in the Baristo Park neighborhood.

Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton, however, said she has concerns about the difference in budgets between the two organizations and wants more information about how Well In The Desert operates before approving any contract with the organization.

“I’m incredibly struggling to understand how Martha’s can provide all their services for $221,000 and Well In The Desert, for a drop-in center, has a $560,000 budget and a line item in their budget of $172,000 for ‘client assistance,’” Middleton said. “I don’t know what that is, and I don’t know how that relates to a drop-in center. … I have very serious concerns about our relationship with The Well.”

BUDGET APPROVED: The Council unanimously approved a $127 million city budget for the next fiscal year (starting July 1) that will be “essentially balanced,” according to city staff. Among notable expenditures in the budget is the addition of four code compliance officers staff said are needed to help regulate cannabis businesses in the city.

FULLER HONORED: Assistant City Manager Marcus Fuller was honored for his service to the city. Fuller is headed to Rialto, where he will now be that city’s city manager.

RAIL PLAN: Council members heard an update from a representative of the Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Service. Sheldon Peterson, RCTC Rail Program Manager, said the project, which would connect the Valley with Los Angeles via rail, is making its way through review and that public comment is open until July 6. More information about the proposed rail service, including how to provide comments, can be found here.


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BRIEFLY

SHELTER NEEDS HELP: The Palm Springs Animal Shelter reported Wednesday the facility is nearing capacity to hold additional dogs. “After a few weeks of many stray dogs arriving … and few being returned to their guardians, we are near capacity,” shelter officials said. “If you or ANYONE you know is thinking about adopting, we have some amazing pups ready and waiting! We are looking for adopters and families who want to give our big dogs the home they truly deserve!” Dogs and other animals available for adoption, as well as information on how to adopt them, can be viewed here.

‘MARILYN’ EVENT: An official unveiling event for the ‘Forever Marilyn’ statue will be held Sunday, June 20, at 7 PM, the city announced Thursday. The event will be at the corner of Museum Way and Belardo Road. The statue was previously installed in the city between 2012-2014. It was purchased by P.S. Resorts – a nonprofit organization made up of local hoteliers to promote Palm Springs tourism through events and attractions. The statue’s arrival follows a lawsuit and other efforts to stop its installation in the middle of newly-constructed Museum Way instead of a city park as previously planned. A Riverside County judge recently ruled against the group that brought the lawsuit.

AIRLINE ROUTES: More nonstop service and more routes for airlines flying in and out of Palm Springs International Airport were among the items announced by the city Thursday. According to a news release, Southwest Airlines will now offer new daily year-round service to Sacramento, seasonal daily service to Dallas Love Field and Chicago Midway, and Saturday seasonal service to Portland. Alaska Airlines is planning new non-stop service to Austin, Texas.

TODAY’S EVENTS

  • SEASON OPENER: The Palm Springs Power take on The Long Beach Legends tonight in their season-opener. First pitch is at 7:05 PM at Palm Springs Stadium, 1901 E. Barista Rd. A complete schedule is available here.

WEEKEND EVENTS

  • FLEA MARKET: A flea market and food fest is held today through Sunday at 675 Crossley Rd. The venue will be open from 5PM-10PM all weekend and continue those hours every Friday and Saturday through September. Information can be found here.

  • BRUNCH: Multiple venues offer drag brunch, champagne brunch, and more on weekends. View a complete list here.

  • LIVE MUSIC: Many live music events are posted on this Facebook page, maintained by two Palm Springs residents since 2015.

  • BASEBALL: The Palm Springs Power plays its second game against The Long Beach Legends Saturday evening starting at 7:05 PM at Palm Springs Stadium, 1901 E. Barista Rd. A complete schedule is available here.

ONGOING

  • VACCINES: Anyone 12 and older now qualifies for a COVID-19 vaccine in Riverside County. If you qualify, you can get one at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 North Avenida Caballeros, from 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and from 8:30 AM until 7 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Appointments are not required, and those age 12-17 need to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. You can also find a list of community providers such as pharmacies here. The Convention Center program will end on June 30.

UPCOMING

  • LISTENING SESSIONS: Residents are invited to participate in a series of four neighborhood community listening sessions June 15-28. Conducted in English and Spanish, the goal of the sessions is obtaining input related to the future of Palm Springs. To find out where and how to participate, turn here.

COMMUNITY CONNECTION

Want to know what’s happening in your city and at agencies that make decisions affecting your neighborhood? The following links should help:

City of Palm Springs calendar of events

Police reports | Submit a police report

Code compliance reports | Report a code violation

Current road projects and closures

Currently active development projects

ONE-PS calendar of meetings

Desert Water Agency calendar

Mizell Center calendar of events

FIND Food Bank mobile market schedule