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European-style 'parklets' hit Long Beach

January 6, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
You may have seen them in Europe, San Francisco or New York, and now they're coming to Long Beach.

"They're called parklets, which is a little bit of a misnomer because people assume they're actually parks," said urban and architectural planner Michael Bohn. "In reality, it's a curb extension, or a term in San Francisco that's been coined a 'sidewalk oasis.'"

Bohn is heading up the city's pilot program to encourage more pedestrian activity, starting at Lola's restaurant on Fourth Street.

"On the street that's already cool, it's going to add a little bit more cool," said Lola's owner Luis Navarro. "It's really going to give us a little bit a street cred here and make us more of a destination point, rather than just a locals only-type neighborhood."

Long Beach restaurants Berlin and Number Nine are also planning to participate. The parklets will extend all the way in front of the buildings and about 7 feet out into the street.

"I think it will bring in a lot of activity, especially in the summer and give it a nice open feeling. People can bring their dogs," said Number Nine owner Genie Nakano.

The Lola's parklet, which will be unveiled next week, will add three more staff positions and 18 more seats to the restaurant.

The parklets do narrow the street and take up parking spots, but planners say they have been proven to boost local economies.

"We actually talked to a number of restaurants in the Bay Area, and we've found out that typically, a restaurant that has a parklet has seen sales go up between 10 and 15 percent. Part of that is the additional seating, which is relatively inexpensive to add, and then second of all, it's the visibility," said Bohn.

Long-term plans include hopes to extend parklets to other neighborhoods throughout the city and add bike lanes, which will slow down traffic and make the areas surrounding them more bike and pedestrian-friendly.

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