SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The Santa Barbara City Council on Thursday, Jan. 12, voted 4-2 to implement a fee system for outdoor dining structures along State Street.
After three rounds of voting and almost two hours of discussion, a four tiered system of charges was approved to begin in May of 2023.
The rates are based on both how permanent the outdoor dining structures are and how much space they use beyond their existing property limits and into City-owned sidewalks and streets.
The following list indicates the rates to be charged for dining structures, a tiered system of rates will also be charged for frontage use:
- For portable setups with a platform, but not a roof, the rate is $4 per square foot
- Structures that are not portable and on platform with no roof, the rate is $4.50 a square foot
- Non-portable structures with a roof will be charged $5 per square foot.
A City Council meeting in September of 2022 made two important decisions: that a fee system should be implemented and that non-portable roofed structures should be prohibited into the future.
This system of fees based on space usage and structure permanence was what was presented to the City Council meeting on Jan. 12.
This tiered structure of fees was described as "variable by design" in an attempt to offer individual businesses the option to manage what tier their structure will fall within according to Public Works Manager Brian Bosse.
These outdoor dining structures, or parklets, became popular after State Street was closed to vehicle traffic during the pandemic.
The pandemic era restrictions on indoor activities necessitated bringing businesses outdoors with the expectation that these structures would remain pandemic-related short-term solutions.
Even the state government relaxed some alcohol serving restrictions to accommodate outdoor serving during the pandemic.
This tiered fee system is intended to manage just how permanent and extensive these structures are, especially in light of upcoming recommendations expected through the State Street Master Plan detailed Bosse.
While a contractor has been selected for that master plan already, the framework and design concepts are expected to be announced in Spring and Summer of 2023, respectively.
The maintenance costs of State Street Promenade had been subsidized using money allocated from the American Rescue Plan Act also known as the COVID-19 Stimulus Package.
As those federal funds are not permanent, the City Council wanted to ensure the increased costs in the Promenade, such as additional lighting and ADA certification of the parklets, would be covered.