PLEASANTON — The city council has agreed to extend its outdoor “pop-up program” for local restaurants through the end of the year.
The 4-1 vote was made during the July 20 regular meeting with Councilmember Valerie Arkin as the dissenting vote. The city's temporary pop-up program allows for seating areas, furnishings and coverings such as tents and canopies, to be installed at outdoor restaurant and bar locations, as well as in private parking lots.
“It's a hard one, and I think a lot of us have come to enjoy them,” said Arkin. “Although I will say it has been a great thing for our downtown and has added vibrancy to downtown … I’m trying to be sensitive to all the businesses downtown and what would be the best compromise. I’m sorry, I just have a hard time going through the end of December.”
When the program was implemented a year ago, the city had insisted on minimal safety and emergency guidelines, but did not require specific designs or uniformity. Twenty businesses received approval for pop-ups within the downtown area. Approximately 50 additional pop-up approvals were issued for use on private property, both within and outside of downtown. Each individual pop-up typically occupies zero to three parking spaces and incorporates varying levels of design and amenities.
While generally accepted as a positive solution, there have been concerns from local retailers who say the pop-ups block the access and visibility of their businesses. The State of California has allowed for the extension of pop-up programs, and a number of neighboring communities, including Danville and Walnut Creek, have agreed to extend indefinitely.
“The one benefit of COVID was that it forced us to do some things that we talked about, but there was never the thrust to do it until COVID hit,” said Pleasanton Councilmember Kathy Narum. “But I think we also have to be mindful of our retailers, especially going into the holiday season. Where I come out on this is that I would like to see pop-ups continue through the end of the year, and I would like to have staff work with the (Pleasanton Downtown Association) on their aesthetics, size and safety.”
The council directed staff to research the possibility of extending pop-ups into a more permanent parklet program. Unlike pop-ups, parklets are built flush to the sidewalks in parking and street areas, making walkways more accessible and safer. Although they are more elaborate to construct, the parklets provide additional options for the public to gather, eat and shop. Potential cons of the parklets include a reduction in parking supply and the possible construction of barricades. Staff will return to a future council meeting with recommendations.
Staff will also simultaneously work on design guidelines for a more permanent parklet program. After Dec. 31, the temporary pop-ups are set to come down, and the area will be cleaned and restored.
Staff emphasized that the pop-ups and the potential parklet program are separate from the current Weekend on Main closures, which were also created as a way to support businesses by closing Main Street to traffic on Fridays through Sundays. The Main Street program is scheduled to end on Sept. 6, but council agreed to revisit its possible extension separately at a future date.
For more information, visit www.cityofpleasantonca.gov.