A pilot program that tested an expanded outdoor dining area at Left Bank went so well that the Menlo Park City Council unanimously signed off last night on letting more restaurants -- and potentially other types of businesses -- put their outdoor space to greater use.
For the trial installation, approved in May 2014, the city bought movable planters and landscaping to install around the perimeters of Left Bank's outdoor dining area at 635 Santa Cruz Ave. The restaurant paid for the additional seating and maintenance of the area.
The installation removed one 1-hour parking space, one 15-minute space and a rarely-used motorcycle parking spot, according to staff. The city also added reflectors to the planters and moved a stop sign on the corner to improve visibility in response to community concerns.
During the Jan. 27 meeting, the council voted 5-0 to have staff identify new restaurants that could participate -- Amici's on Santa Cruz Avenue and Refuge on Crane Street are two of several that are interested -- and to start putting together a "toolkit" as a reference for the business owners.
According to the staff report, the toolkit would list approved designs and materials for semi-permanent outdoor areas; approved contractors; and cost-sharing guidelines.
The designs would place outdoor platforms at the same level as sidewalks to allow better access for those with disabilities.
New sites will be selected based on minimal parking impacts; protection from traffic; and whether the businesses get the required outdoor seating permits.
Councilman Ray Mueller suggested looking into whether non-restaurants could join in, perhaps by hosting "pop up" vendors, based on input given during one of the city's small business roundtables.
The council also considered an option to use capital improvement funds to go ahead with permanently expanding downtown sidewalks, but for now, set that aside in favor of other projects, such as completing a sidewalk along Chilco Street.