Mill Valley extends temporary outdoor dining program

Mill Valley has extended its temporary outdoor dining program through the fall while developing a long-term parklet program.

The program, which was established in 2020 after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, was due to end on June 30. The extension by the city council allows it to continue from July 1 to October 31.

The council also signaled its support for a long-term seasonal outdoor commercial program that is being developed by city staff. The program is offered from June 1 to October 31, with the possibility of annual renewals.

The seasonal program would allow the use of public right-of-way and private property for outdoor dining or merchandise areas if a business paid a fee and adhered to certain building limits.

Right-of-way agreements would allow businesses to use adjacent public parking spaces for outdoor dining. The city would not allow more than two parking spaces per restaurant.

Businesses would be allowed to use the outdoors on private property or in areas where permits permit, although this may require changes to the municipal code.

Mill Valley has outdoor dining and merchandise display allowances under its municipal code that are separate from the temporary outdoor program. The code permits the use of the public right-of-way immediately adjacent to the business, including sidewalks.

The proposed seasonal plan will allow the use of public rights-of-way and private spaces, but will not include sidewalks due to current code allowances.

The temporary plan waives conditional use permit requirements for parking based on business size and gives the city manager the ability to close portions of streets to allow for better pedestrian access.

City manager Alan Piombo said the temporary outdoor activity program had about 30 participants.

For the long-term program, Piombo said, the city recommends structures that can be taken down and put up easily each season. Structures could include heaters and umbrellas, but no wood siding, roofing, or permanent structure. Planters and protective edging may be used, but no concrete or plastic rails will be permitted.

The city receives a fee of $603 for reviewing permanent outdoor dining and display permits under the city code. It charges $58 per day for temporary private use of a public parking space.

The proposed plan would include a $300 application and permit fee. An annual license renewal without changes would cost $150. Using a public parking space would cost $1,000 per month, or $40 per day.

Members of the public showed their support for the outdoor program. Some have asked if it could be extended for a longer period.

“These five months are definitely too short,” said Karen Goldberg, owner of the Tamalpie restaurant. “We absolutely have to extend it beyond five months. It s too difficult. It’s hard enough already.

Details of the plan may change with new information, council members said.

“We’re extending it again to give us time to plan what we’re going to do next,” council member Urban Carmel said.

Mayor John McCauley said he supported the length of the proposed scheme because “the fundamental truth is that in the winter we need parking”.

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