Lookout Update: Permanent Santa Cruz parklet ordinance passes final readthrough

An outdoor dining parklet outside Hula's Island Grill on Cathcart Street in downtown Santa Cruz
An outdoor dining parklet outside Hula’s Island Grill on Cathcart Street in downtown Santa Cruz.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Perhaps the biggest change from Oct. 25, when the ordinance was first reviewed by the Santa Cruz City Council, is in the estimated costs of the city’s preapproved parklet designs. After initial plans rang in at $50,000-70,000, they now range from $14,000 to $20,000.

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An update on Santa Cruz parklets

Among the handful of updates to Santa Cruz’s new permanent parklet ordinance approved Tuesday, city planners have unveiled new preapproved parklet designs with drastically reduced price tags. Now estimated to cost $14,000 to $20,000, the designs for the dining spaces that sit inside street parking spaces were previously quoted at $50,000 to $70,000.

City economic development manager Rebecca Unitt said the change comes at the behest of businesses that said the city’s previous designs were cost-prohibitive. The city’s previous requirement for hard steel and concrete traffic barriers — which, Unitt said, would alone cost about $42,000 — have since been replaced with cheaper material requirements.

“What was required before were barriers made of hard steel and concrete, which ate up a lot of the total price figure,” Unitt said. “The barriers are now designed to be made out of mixed CMU — basically cinder blocks reinforced with steel.”

The changes cap a yearlong dialogue and development process by the city to create a permanent ordinance regulating parklets. The Santa Cruz City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve the ordinance, including the lowered design fees, putting the program on track to become law next month.

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The new law also sets out guidelines for how, where and with what permits businesses can set up parklets in Santa Cruz, along with other details about deadlines and the structure of permit, inspection and rental fees. Businesses have until March 31 to submit permit applications for permanent parklets, with the expiration date of the city’s temporary parklet program — and the deadline for businesses to retrofit or replace their temporary setups — set to Oct. 31, 2023.

Santa Cruz parklet fee schedule

  • Application fees:

    Permit application fees for preapproved and retrofitted parklet designs cost $500, while custom designs cost $500 plus processing fees charged at the city’s standard hourly rate.

    Annual inspection fee:

    $250 per year, prorated during the ordinance’s first year of implementation.

    Annual permit fee:

    $2,000 per space per year prorated for parklets in metered parking spaces, and $5.88 per square foot for unmetered parking spaces.

    Appeal fee: $519

Businesses will be allowed to petition the city to waive their permit application fees, to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

“Some of our restaurants are saying, ‘Hey, we’re still struggling,’” said Bonnie Lipscomb, the director of Santa Cruz’s economic development department. “We want to take that into consideration — whereas there are some restaurants that are doing really well. ”

Unitt says talks regarding partially forgivable loans to the tune of 50% for up to $50,000, which was pitched with the new ordinance on Oct. 25, are still ongoing, with discussion focused on extending these loans to businesses with outdoor dining setups built on private parking lots.


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