West Hollywood City Council voted to amend the existing outdoor dining policies to allow for additional outdoor dining spaces that are currently not allowed under city policy. The measure comes as the city’s OUTzone program, which let restaurants hampered by COVID restrictions use public right-of-way spaces to seat diners, nears its end.
“We are here to address the end of the temporary outdoor dining program, which we have been calling the OUTzone program for the last two to three years,” said John Keho, director of Planning and Development Services.
The program was created quickly to address the needs of restaurants during the pandemic, when they could not serve patrons inside their establishments. To help these businesses, the city waived numerous rules, such as parking requirements, parking application fees, and public hearings for new or expanded outdoor alcohol service. Additionally, the city allowed outdoor dining to take place in front of other businesses and on sidewalks, with only a minimum width of four feet for ADA requirements. The city also paid for K rails to be placed in the street, allowing private and public parking spaces to be used for outdoor dining.
On Monday night, Council reviewed the new rules for outdoor dining located on public sidewalks and public parking spaces. For outdoor dining on private property, those rules are already in place, and the owners can apply to convert their temporary out zones to permanent outdoor dining. However, for public space, a compliance period ends this year, during which all temporary OUTzones will have to be removed. The city will pay for the K rails through 2023, and then the new rules will take effect, and the city will no longer be paying for them.
Rick Abramson from the city’s Urban Design and Architecture Studio explained the proposed policy changes.
“The proposed changes are twofold,” Abramson said. “Firstly, they will update the current standards which are largely located directly in front of business frontages. Secondly, they will allow for new outdoor dining in limited circumstances between tree wells and on-street parking spaces.”
“There are several challenges associated with outdoor dining on sidewalks, including ensuring that sidewalks remain accessible for pedestrians, avoiding any obstructions or diversions, and maintaining mobility. Additionally, when outdoor dining is located on the curb of a pedestrian way, servers must cross the path of pedestrians, which is less than ideal. Our recommendations aim to address these challenges by avoiding this type of setup, except when there is no other alternative.
“In narrow sidewalk conditions, it may be advisable to consider using parking spaces for outdoor dining, but this is not currently our recommendation. In moderate and wide sidewalk conditions, there is enough room for sidewalk dining without using parking spaces. Our recommendations include a minimum 6-foot clearance in narrow and moderate sidewalk conditions and a minimum 8-foot clearance in high intensity, wide sidewalk conditions.
“In a narrow sidewalk condition, the 6-foot zone would likely be in front of the business frontage, with the space between the tree wells and potentially parking spaces used for outdoor dining.”
Councilmember John Heilman expressed some reservations about the proposal but was in general supportive of it.
“My reaction to allowing parking spaces for outdoor dining is a negative one,” he said. “I know that we have allowed it for some but I don’t really like the idea of expanding that because I feel that that’s dangerous. I don’t like the idea. Even with the barriers, I still think it is potentially dangerous for the people who are out there dining, and it’s not really that enjoyable.”
Councilmember Lauren Meister held some of the same of doubts.
“I’m not OK with having the OUTzones in the roadway. First of all, in addition to eliminating needed parking spaces, it eliminates spaces for drop off. It eliminates potential for alternate mobility. It impacts public right of way including access to utilities and other infrastructure. It creates opportunities for crowds to block the walkway in between. It creates public safety issues,” Meister said. “So that’s that’s where I land. I cannot support taking over the roadway with these outdoors, with these OUTzones.”
“I just want to clarify from the start, the idea that our city would not want to interfere with private property agreements between neighbors seems to be a missed spatial opportunity,” said Councilmember Chelsea Byers. “So I’m indicating my openness to this idea, especially since it could provide new opportunities for some businesses. I think the case-by-case approach makes a lot of sense.”
The motion passed 4-1, with Councilmember Lauren Meister voting no.
As it turns out, the lockdowns and forced business closures were completely unjustified, as was the banning of unvaccinated customers! Our public sidewalks and parking spaces still being used for private commercial interests is just a slap in the face, at this point.
You keep beating this drum. And as usual, I firmly disagree with you. I think what you are saying is nonsense. Sorry. And I’m referring to the Covid part of this discussion. Did you watch the council meeting, by the way? This is not about retaining what they did for Covid. It was a very interesting discussion. And it didn’t just involve having dining spaces on the street. There are actually not a ton of those. But there will be new rules as to who can do it, and who cannot. It’s based on the width of the sidewalk, the… Read more »
Yet once again the City Council shows it ignorance to reality and the public they’re supposed to “serve and represent”. We had sidewalk dining before COVID, where it was practical and space available – think Cafe D’Etoile. I totally supported expanding during the pandemic, but that is over now for the most part, thankfully. We need to return to normalcy and restore back to where we were. Keeping dining in the streets, parking spaces is terrible for many people, like myself. Due to health and mobility issues I can only try to go to a place where I can park… Read more »
It just seems to me that the City Manager should have called a time out on this issue. We have three major proposals that are all interconnected yet they are being considered in separately: Out-Zones, protected bike lanes on Santa Monica and the re-design of Fountain. At some point a holistic approach would have made sense to combine these proposals so we could see how each of these items impacts the other. City Council is just making ad hoc decisions without any overall vision or insight and we have to live with the consequences. Staff is becoming increasing useless although… Read more »
You are correct, Steve. Makes no sense. Can’t have all of these, at the same time.
The City has never been known to possess a holistic lense. Stove piping seems their specialty.
We are been governed by a very ad hoc Council. The three council members lack experience, have no idea what they are doing and are making decisions solely on where they think it will take them in their future endeavors. Its a really unfortunate and hope they don’t do too much damage as they reign over our City.
Such a bad idea. Meister again the only adult in the room. Disappointed in Heilman on supporting this. Glad he is on his last possible term.
Was she the only adult person in the room, when she voted for the minimum wage/time off ordinance, which so many people on here despise? Amongst quite a few other things?
Meister is the only serious person. Dining in the filthy streets…..yes please. How third world.
I also posted this comment under the article about bike lanes, but it certainly applies here to under out zones! Council member Meister pointed out…how can we expand the width of the sidewalks and expand the width of the streets at the same time? That sounds like a pretty impossible thing to do! It would take some mighty, creative, thinking…or magic!! Sadly, nobody seem to be listening to her. what really pissed me off were the comments made by a certain public speaker that reeked with ageism! Lauren Meister probably has forgotten more than this person will ever know! BTW,… Read more »
Sure, we can have bike lanes and wider sidewalks, just make Santa Monica Boulevard a one lane road!!!! Thankfully, the boulevard is state controlled, otherwise the road would be a victim same as Fountain Avenue. Also, those barriers are HIDEOUS. UGLY. With a city government with so many design opinions about new construction, how can they not see the blight that is on street dining barriers? Idiots.
Miesiter is the voice of commonsense on the council.
Absolutely Agreed !!!
“the idea that our city would not want to interfere with private property agreements between neighbors seems to be a missed spatial opportunity”… I think that the issue is the public right of way, not private property rights. I really think that some instances are out of hand, such as when pedestrians are forced to walk in the parking spaces on plywood, such as at Stache and Beaches.
Forgive the reply to myself. I want to add that some cases, like the two above, are not actually outdoor eating. Yes the businesses sell some food, but the spaces have become defect patios attached to the front of the building. Bar patio space without going through the city permitting process and forcing pedestrians to walk on plywood in parking spaces, without being able to easily access the actual street due to barriers.
Once again, the council ignored residents. Thank you councilmember Meister. Disappointed in Heilman’s vote. The other three… well, as expected. VOTE. THEM. OUT.
Thank you, Lauren Meister–the only voice of reason on the Council. I’m disappointed in Heilman, but the three pseudo-communists did as expected.
Although parking spaces are still in jeopardy under this plan, I’m confident that the new standards will see the end of haphazard, unsafe conditions and a pedestrian-unfriendly attitude.
The time has come to move on from the dire pandemic solutions of the past.
Let’s hope so!
So disappointed by our Council. Despite safety concerns voiced by the public during the meeting, the majority completely ignored those comments and went with city staff recommendations. Thank you Lauren Meister for applying common sense.
People tend to be more vocal when they oppose something, more often than when they support something. Do you think the young adults who use these in front of Hi Tops are going to show up to a Council meeting?