The city of Half Moon Bay is considering allowing Harpo Marx, owner of Cafe Society, to build a mini park space outside his coffee shop in place of what are now three parking spaces. The space will be open to the public to use and not just for coffeeshop customers.
Some business owners on Main Street are concerned the project will reduce parking availability for their customers.
At the Jan. 14 Half Moon Bay Planning Commission meeting, city project planner Scott Phillips defined a “parklet” as a small seating area along the edge of sidewalks that are typically created within existing roadways or parking spaces.
“The opportunity was brought forward by the business owner and he will be installing, paying for and maintaining the parklet,” Phillips said.
The parklet will include a boardwalk, planter boxes with built-in benches and tables and chairs. It will be approximately 600 square feet and occupy the three angled parking spaces outside Cafe Society extending about 10 feet out from the curb. Intended as a pilot project, the parklet would be installed for 12 months before the Planning Commission reassesses it.
To approve the project, the Half Moon Bay City Council must vote to authorize a license agreement to allow for temporary improvements in the public right of way.
Phillips said parklets are not a new concept, and that they are becoming more popular in other downtown areas in the Bay Area.
“I love this project,” Planning Commissioner Rich Hernandez said. “If it was not disruptive to the other businesses, I would rip out all the parking.”
Some commissioners raised questions about the specifics of the plan, including the practicality of placing a bike rack next to a parking spot and the perception that this sets a precedent to allow more parklets or favoritism toward any one business owner.
Several people who own businesses on the 500 block of Main Street said they disapproved of the pilot project. Some said taking away parking spaces near their businesses would deter customers. Others brought up issues with safety and accessibility to the parklet.
“This parklet idea seems like a way to bring in business for (Marx),” said Audrey Seaton, co-owner of Small Town Sweets, which is one business removed from Cafe Society. “Taking away parking will hurt businesses like me.”
Seaton said she is also worried the appeal of the parklet may encourage people to jaywalk and use the space inappropriately.
“You can’t police how people sit in or use the parklet. What about dealing with garbage?” she said.
As the applicant for the project, Marx will be responsible for maintaining and cleaning the parklet, according to the city’s staff report.
Half Moon Bay Bakery owner Desi Sanchez said the loss of parking spaces would negatively impact his business as well.
“I think my business is going to hurt more than anybody,” Sanchez said. “For my business, people come and go, and customers stay in the store about five minutes. We’re getting busier and busier and now you want to take out three parking spaces.”
Last year the city conducted a survey of parking downtown and found there is plenty of space available, even during peak times. The survey stated that during a typical lunch rush on Monday street parking was 65 percent occupied and available parking lots were 37 percent full.
“There will continue to be additional pressures on parking and as a community we will need to be flexible on that,” Planning Commissioner Steve Ruddock said.
A few residents in attendance spoke in favor of the project, stating it will enhance downtown.
“It takes some bravery to try something different and unique,” said Half Moon Bay resident Leslie Duckworth. “… I think it is an amazing addition.”
The Planning Commission voted to approve the application for the pilot project, and city staff is looking at ways to work out further design details.