118 Apply for Outdoor Dining Task ForceApr 04, 2023 08:48AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
The former outdoor dining deck at Fishing with Dynamite in Manhattan Beach - Photo via Fishing with Dynamite.
Do people in Manhattan Beach have strong feelings about outdoor dining? Apparently yes.
A whopping 118 people have applied for just eight open seats on Manhattan Beach's Long-Term Outdoor Dining Ad Hoc Task Force. (The other seven seats on the 15-member panel have been filled with city/commercial representatives.) Alternates will also be named for each seat.
Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery told MB News that it was the largest number of people applying to a local committee that he had seen in recent memory.
"The fact that so many residents and or businesses have applied is an indication of the interest in providing direction for the outdoor dining process," said Montgomery.
The available seats are for one Downtown Manhattan Beach resident, one North Manhattan Beach resident, two at-large residents, and three at-large seats that may be for residential or commercial representatives. An eighth seat is also open for a non-Manhattan Village Shopping Center commercial seat. (The Manhattan Village Shopping Center commercial seat has already been filled.)
The Manhattan Beach City Council will narrow down those applicants and make its selections on Tuesday night. Six of the 118 have already been disqualified because they are not residents or business owners within the city; another applicant has since withdrawn.
Temporary Outdoor Dining Decks Removed
The Manhattan Beach City Council voted in January remove the city's temporary dining decks by February 28, in advance of a larger long-term plan to create more outdoor dining opportunities in the city.
The shutdown date was chosen because California's COVID-19 state of emergency was scheduled to end on February 28, and the city had tied its emergency orders allowing temporary use of the public right-of-way to that date.
At the time of the decision, the City Council heard from both restaurants and residents who pleaded for an extension of the outdoor dining decks, as well as residents who said that it was time for them to come down.
the vote to end the temporary decks, councilmembers all expressed a
desire to create a permanent and cohesive plan to allow for a return to
Councilmembers and others have noted that there are many different ways to re-imagine how the streets and sidewalks can be used. For example, removing "impediments" such as parking meters (and replacing them with pay stations) would create more room on the sidewalks; or traffic patterns could be changed to create some one-way streets.
The new task force is expected to evaluate those options and more.
COVID Had Created Temporary Outdoor Dining Opportunity
Although the COVID-19 pandemic created extensive difficulties for restaurants, one positive outcome had been an expansion of outdoor dining, particularly through the city's temporary dining decks.
By the time the temporary dining deck program came to an end, there were 26 Manhattan Beach establishments that were taking advantage of public right-of-way spaces through temporary outdoor dining decks, claiming a total of 57 public parking spaces.
An additional 16 establishments in Manhattan Beach continue to offer sidewalk dining, for which they pay the city $3 per square foot per month. That sidewalk dining is not part of the temporary COVID-19 program and is ongoing.