Picnic in the Parklets

As of January 20, 2021, Monterey County joins most of California in the Purple Tier, meaning there is widespread coronavirus transmission in our area. This prompted the California Department of Public Health to extend our regional stay-at-home order.

While Monterey County is in the Purple Tier, restaurants and winebars may remain open outdoor only with modifications. Bars, breweries, and distilleries must remain closed. For details, visit Industry Guidance, updated January 19, 2021.

Carmel City Council called a “special meeting” January 20, 2021 at 5pm to discuss changing the current parklet program during the statewide stay-at-home order. Full agenda here.

Originally, the parklet program was launched after indoor dining was prohibited in restaurants. Carmel’s downtown public parking spaces were then lent to restaurants (and wine bars) so they could serve their customers outdoors, hoping to slow the spread of coronavirus. During that time business owners built and maintained their parklets in public parking spots.

However, in an effort to reduce the exponential increase in COVID-19 cases throughout California, the recent stay-at-home order, effective mid-December 2020, restricted restaurants to take-out or delivery only.

Today’s special meeting will discuss a possible loophole in the stay-at-home order whereby the City Council may redefine the parklet parking spaces as “parks” which any person or group of people can use, similar to picnicking in Devendorf Park or at Carmel Beach. This way take-out customers can pick up their food and consume it in a nearby City of Carmel parklet, instead of going away.

Questions for discussion presented by City Staff

Should “picnicking” be allowed within permitted outdoor seating areas in the public way?
a. Limit to permitted “parklets” in the public right-of-way?
b. Allow in permitted “parklets” and approved sidewalk seating in the public right-of- way?
c. Allow in all approved outdoor seating areas (public and private)?

If allowed, staff recommends the following:
a. Permit holders must have current insurance certificates on-file with the City for outdoor seating in the public way;
b. Table service should be strictly prohibited;
c. Signs should be posted prohibiting the public consumption of alcohol;
d. Seating areas should be open to the public-at-large,not just patrons of a particular establishment;
e. Permit holders should be responsible for regular sanitizing of the seating area;
f. Permit holders should provide adequate receptacles for all trash, be responsible for emptying receptacles throughout the day, and dispose of all trash within their private trash collection area;
g. Permitholders should comply with biodegradable/compostable packaging, straws and utensils;
h. Approved umbrellas may be used but should be removed at the close of business each day;
i. Heaters should be prohibited; and
j. All mask and social distancing protocols remain in effect and must be followed.

To attend via Teleconference; 1 856-494-6815 PIN: 847 755 004#

The public can also email comments to cityclerk@ci.carmel.ca.us. Comments must be received 2 hours before the meeting in order to be provided to the legislative body. Comments received after that time and up to the beginning of the meeting will be added to the agenda and made part of the record.

Thoughts Floating Around Town

93921 is frontline.
If we’re going to promote tourism during a pandemic, can we at least formally request the vaccine for our community?

What do we get?
We understand restaurant owners’ defending their investments and profits, their landlords’ hoping for rent, and some job retention, but what do the residents of Carmel get in this deal? If it’s sales tax revenue, please provide a cost/benefit analysis over the past 10 months. Considering the risk of spreading disease, it’s possible restaurant dining as a sales tax revenue generator may not be worth the risk.

I Live Downtown Carmel

We’re looking in the wrong place for taxes.
Real estate is booming! Up 50% over last year. Before propping up tourism during stay-at-home orders, consider looking there for lost tax revenue. Really, why are we chasing pizza-in-the-street for jobs and taxes when Carmel real estate sold almost half a billion $$ last year in second homes, parked money, and speculation?

Announce the meeting the day before?
Someone thought allowing picnic tables in the street required a “Special Meeting”, which is why the City felt they didn’t need to announce the meeting sooner, or just add the item to the next regular City Council meeting in February.

Stay-at-home means stay at home.
Attracting tourists during a statewide stay-at-home order seems irresponsible.

At least someone knows the poop.
SARS-CoV2 traces spike in our wastewater after popular tourist weekends suggesting that infected people are coming to Carmel, sharing coronavirus with each other, then returning home where they test positive and show symptoms. But sewage never lies.

I Live Downtown Carmel

Hasn’t this been tried and failed already?
The City of Manhattan Beach, Ca. tried exactly the same strategy and shut it down Sunday.

“Due to the dramatic surge in coronavirus infections, Manhattan Beach will close its outdoor public seating space from Sunday. City workers will remove tables and chairs from public property at 10 pm, officials said.
After Los Angeles County ordered restaurants to stop outdoor dining in late November, Manhattan Beach announced plans to reuse the newly closed outdoor dining area as a “public seating area.” The county’s public health service then sent a letter to the city stating that the policy violated a health official’s order aimed at curbing the spread of the virus, Daily Breeze reported.”

Full story here.

Relax, this is temporary
As soon as the customers can go back in the restaurant this will be over.

Take Out the Trash
Great. Now their take-out trash has become the responsibility of community.

Picnic Pizza
It is sad that Carmel, once known for intimate fine dining, is now known as a place to eat pizza at a picnic table.

Good Ol’ Days
If we’re going to let tourists eat in parking spots anyway, why not just let the restaurants go back to running their own parklets? They know how to do it.

I Live Downtown Carmel