Burlingame’s parklets, the outdoor dining spaces that occupy curbside parking spots or sidewalks, could soon be permanent downtown fixtures — but they won’t be free.
While businesses thus far have not been charged for use of the public space, the City Council this week voiced favor for establishing cleaning and rental fees likely to cost upwards of $5,100 yearly.
“I do think it’s the businesses’ responsibility now to pay,” Mayor Ann O’Brien Keighran said. “They’ve gone through some rough times and we’ve helped them as much as possible, but most of those businesses are thriving … because we allowed the parklets.”
Like many Bay Area cities, Burlingame allowed businesses facing hardship during the pandemic to establish parklets to boost revenue and encourage outdoor activity and social distancing. But with their overwhelming popularity, the city, like others, is looking for ways to perpetuate the program.
The charges would likely begin at some point next year for a one-year pilot period, after which the city would reassess and make changes as needed. The bulk of the cost, a $300 per month cleaning fee, could be reduced if the city’s expenses for the service were less than expected. According to Keighran, the cleaning charges are essential to maintain the program.
“After all the money that’s been spent making sure Burlingame Avenue looks nice and all the landscaping and wider sidewalks and so forth, we really want to keep them clean as much as possible,” she said.
The remaining rental cost was determined based on Mountain View’s permanent parklet program that charges 9% of going rental rates. Given Burlingame commercial rents and the typical 300-square-foot size of parklets, a $1,500 yearly charge was decided on. Additionally, a $769 new application fee and $205 permit renewal fee would be levied.
Burlingame is currently home to 43 parklets occupying 88 parking spaces, according to the city.
Councilmember Mike Brownrigg, part of the economic subcommittee tasked with determining appropriate fees and guidelines, noted input from businesses in the process had been limited, though “not for want of trying.” He said also he was concerned the fees could prove to be too high.
Vice Mayor Ricardo Ortiz emphasized the need to set appropriate fees to strike a balance between the program’s benefits and losing parking.
“At the end of the day what we’re looking to do is have a mechanism so that we know that the parklets are being used, otherwise give me back my parking spaces which are very important,” he said.
Further discussion was had pertaining to the transferability of parklets in the event of a business change of ownership. The council agreed a new permit would be required, but the parklet structure itself could remain if the new owner opted into the program.
Also, in some instances where parklets extend into the frontage of a neighboring storefront, the neighboring business could request the parklet be moved or shrunk. Councilmember Donna Colson suggested the neighboring business could be required to pay for part of the rebuilding, or a timeframe could be established in which parklets would not be required to be moved or rebuilt.
“You have to have some fairness, you can’t build a $40,000 parklet and then your neighbor says ‘you know what, you have to take it down now,’” she said.
The new charges and guidelines will be subject to further council discussion before adoption. The cleaning fees, which require additional study and a public hearing, would likely be adopted after the rental charges.
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