The outdoor dining parklets that line the streets of downtown Capitola are here to stay.
The Capitola City Council voted to extend its temporary outdoor dining program until the end of May 2022. It passed a draft ordinance for establishing a permanent program at its special council meeting this week.
The Capitola City Council has been going back and forth about extending its temporary outdoor dining program past January of the New Year. The program was created in June of 2020 in response to Covid-19 and allowed restaurants to offer customers outdoor dining on the sidewalk and in parking spaces.
Although most restaurant owners expressed their support for the outdoor dining program, saying it helped them stay afloat during the pandemic, residents have complained that the program has made streets noisier and littered sidewalks with trash.
“I liked Capitola before,” said Randy Doucha, who called in to the special meeting. “I like it to be quiet at night; it’s going to increase the noise level. I’d like this to be a temporary solution and return to what Capitola was before.”
But other people wrote and called in to express their support for the temporary and permanent outdoor dining, saying Covid-19 was here for the long hall and that the outdoor dining options are crucial for businesses and customers.
“What we have now is really working,” said another caller, Elizabeth Smith. “The dining areas are bringing vitality to the city and the chance to recover for our businesses. And people are going to continue to prefer to dine outdoors when possible.”
The approved draft for the permanent outdoor dining program will use a lottery system to award businesses parking spaces for parklets. There are a total of 25 parking spaces up for grabs, and the permits to create an outdoor dining parklet will be free. Restaurants will need their parklets to either follow a prototype design or have their custom design approved by the City’s Planning Commission. Whether businesses must follow a prototype design or can create their own will also be determined by a lottery system.
The ordinance still needs to be certified by the Coastal Commission, and businesses can expect to apply for permits around April. The outdoor dining program will have a trial period of three years before the city council will re-evaluate it.