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Carmel again extends mandatory parklet removal date, this time to Jan. 20 – Monterey Herald

CARMEL — Pressed again to extend its parklet program providing outdoor dining during the ongoing pandemic, the Carmel City Council voted this week to extend the mandatory removal date for temporary parklets and outdoor seating into the first month of 2022.

“It’s extended to Jan. 20 necessitated by the mask mandate,” said Carmel Mayor Dave Potter. “It was a unanimous vote. If the mask mandate is still in effect at that time, it could be extended again, but I can’t forecast that.”

The Monterey County Board of Supervisor’s mask ordinance was triggered recently as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated the county had been pushed into the “substantial” tier of community transmission. The ordinance went into effect Friday and will be in force for 30 days unless rescinded by the board sooner.

As of October, 26 restaurants chose to continue using parklets and to pay the monthly rental fee of $842 per single parking space or $1,684 for those that use two spaces.

For the week of Nov. 1, Monterey County reported a COVID-19 case rate holding steady at 4.8 per 100,000, a decreasing test positivity rate of 1.7% and a stable hospitalization number of 12 people.

Potter said with the mask mandate in effect that requires all cities and unincorporated areas of Monterey County to require face coverings in indoor public places, the need for an outdoor dining option is still needed.

“Personally, I’m not comfortable dining inside either,” he said.

The mayor said the discussion goes past the extension of allowing outdoor parklets, to what outdoor dining will look like in the long term if Carmel chooses to have new outdoor dining options in the future.

The idea would be to have outside dining that is compatible with the aesthetics of Carmel, namely reconfiguring and constructing spaces to accommodate outdoor dining much like Monterey has accomplished in its downtown area on Alvarado Street. The process is moving along so that the planning commission can come up with recommendations.

“I’m anxious to see what that will look like,” said Potter.

There are establishments that have existing patio areas or courtyards that could apply for modifications to use permits to allow for outside dining or wine tasting.

In the interim, the city is taking what has been a month-to-month approach to allowing parklets, and extending it to nearly 10 weeks this time.

“The rental fee payment for this extension period is not due until Nov. 13, so I am not sure if any parklets will be removed, but I have not heard of any yet that plan to not continue,” said Carmel Director of Community Planning and Building Brandon Swanson.

In May, the Carmel City Council approved a plan for the phased removal of all temporary parklets in the public right of way once the city returned to “business as usual,” meaning that 100% indoor occupancy was allowed and was not prevented due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The California economy was reopened on June 15 when most COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

Carmel set a mandatory parklet removal date of July 14 for wine tasting shops and Sept. 12 for restaurants.

All wine tasting shops have since removed their parklets, but are currently allowed to use private outdoor spaces until such time that the restaurant parklets are removed.

At its meeting on Sept. 7, the City Council approved the first 30-day extension in a 3-2 vote, and again in October by the same margin.

Potter, Mayor Pro-tem Bobby Richards, and Councilwoman Carrie Theis have voted in favor while Councilman Jeff Baron and Councilwoman Karen Ferlito voted against in the past two months, but this time, due to the mask mandate, all council members voted in favor.

According to city documents, encroachment permits and design review permits associated with outdoor seating were originally issued as “no-fee” permits. Costs associated with staff time to manage and enforce the outdoor seating program have been covered by the general fund to date.

“Rental fees” collected for the month of September totaled $39,574, which goes directly into the general fund, and can be utilized for costs supported by that account, including additional code compliance efforts (staff overtime or contract support) to ensure any impacts associated with outdoor dining and wine tasting are minimized to the greatest extent feasible.

“Construction of new parklets and reconstruction of parklets that were previously removed is not allowed,” said Swanson.

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