Outdoor dining "parklets" will be allowed in Palm Springs for at least another year thanks to new city council approval.
Palm Springs, like cities across the world, first OK'd the outdoor dining spaces in the parking lanes of city streets as a way to support restaurants when the COVID-19 pandemic made indoor dining unsafe.
But nearly three years later, many restaurants say their parklets remain popular with diners who either still feel unsafe eating inside restaurants or simply enjoy the novelty of the spaces and dining in the Palm Springs sunshine. The city currently has nine parklets downtown, eight on Palm Canyon Drive and one on nearby Arenas Road.
The council's unanimous Thursday vote means the parklets program will be able to continue through 2023. The council also voted to standardize the fees parklet owners must pay the city.
Although the council voted unanimously to extend the program, there was discussion of several concerns around parklets, including the unsightliness of some and their impact on parking. Councilmember Dennis Woods was particularly critical and noted at one point that he was less inclined to let them continue.
Councilmember Geoff Kors suggested improving design standards so protective barriers called "K-rails" — which protect diners from cars — are less unsightly. The council adopted that change as an amendment.
Woods suggested that the city should redesign Palm Canyon Drive to have wider sidewalks with more dining space, rather than continuing with parklets long term.
Mayor Lisa Middleton said she agreed, but that only the parklet program was on the table for now.
"I think this is something that is positive and we should continue," she said. "Are there potentially down the road some solutions that might broaden our sidewalks and make for an even better aesthetically appropriate place? I think that's that's a possibility, but this is something we can do today and are doing today."
Paul Albani-Burgio covers breaking news and the City of Palm Springs. Follow him on Twitter at @albaniburgiop and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Palm Springs will allow outdoor dining parklets through 2023