Update on Oak View Parklet Negotiations

September 14th, 2021

On Monday 9/13, we met with supervisor John Gioia and representatives from public works. We were informed that the only acceptable solution for the Kensington Farmers’ Market (KFM) is to redesign the proposed permanent parklet to have removable or gated walls.

This proposed solution sets forth the following challenges:

  • We have spent a considerable sum of money and energy on architectural and permitting fees for the proposed permanent design. The design was shared with the KFM early on and received no feedback. After six weeks of negotiations with the county, the design received final plan approval. At that time, the KFM stepped in to protest and recruit Gioia to retract the approval, thereby derailing the process.
  • We are a small business with a limited budget to finance this parklet for the community in a way that meets the needs of all. Being forced to redesign it at this stage will require significant additional funds. And with no guarantee of whether a redesign will actually satisfy the KFM, there is considerable financial risk involved.
  • The proposed permanent design as initially submitted allows open use by the market, and if some vendor booths can be shuffled, there is enough space for everyone. Asking a small business to spend more money on a redesign is unnecessary when solutions/compromises can be explored/tested out. We understand that the KFM and others in the community might expect us to continue to contribute both financial and emotional resources toward this project while also running the restaurant and parenting three young children. We honestly and whole-heartedly believe in the viability of this permanent parklet as a gathering space for the community at large, the KFM shoppers and vendors, and Benchmark. However, we are aware that without flexibility and an ability to embrace change in a positive light, it may not come to fruition. We can only hope that the needs & desires of many will ultimately prevail over the fear of change from a vocal few, so that the entire community can benefit.

We will keep you posted if any new details emerge.

 

WANT TO SPEAK OUT IN SUPPORT OF A PERMANENT PARKLET?

EMAIL: KATE RAUCH: Kate.Rauch@bos.cccounty.us AND JOHN GIOIA: John.Gioia@bos.cccounty.us

Dear beloved customers, neighbors and the Colusa Circle Community,

The temporary parklet ushered into existence during Covid has been a lifeline for our business and an asset to the broader community. Naturally, few people want to eat indoors, and the parklet allows for ample outdoor seating even though the environment is less than ideal. When not in use during business hours, the parklet has created additional outdoor seating in Colusa Circle, which benefits all businesses and local residents. We suspect that because customers are so happy to be eating out and spending time together again, they have been forgiving of the current parklet’s condition. We are grateful for the County’s help in ushering it through and making it possible, and understood that as time went on, its temporary condition would need to be addressed.

We anticipate that as the outdoor dining scene continues to be necessary for health and safety, and as parklets become the norm across the Bay Area, diners and neighbors will grow less accepting of our current temporary parklet’s substandard and non-accessible condition. The main problem is the slant and slope of the street. Though we do our best to prop the tables on up wedges, the tables and chairs are slanted and sloped with the street. People are sitting lopsided on wobbly chairs, and sliding plates and drinks while dining are not uncommon. Neighbors who use the space during the day to gather with friends or have meetings have to rotate their chairs to keep from sliding off. It is both unsafe and uncomfortable. Secondly, several customers and neighbors have shared that they don’t feel safe being so close to traffic: the gaps in the wine barrels (a border created to accommodate the farmers market) are bridged by plastic chains that do not really offer any protection from vehicular traffic. Third, we have only been able to offer wheelchair accessible tables on the sidewalk; the parklet itself, because of the curb, is not wheelchair accessible. We really want it to be a space that is accessible to all.

Proposed Parklet Rendering 1

Pictured above are renderings for our proposed permanent parklet (note that it is the same dimensions as our current, temporary set-up.)

At the guidance of the county per the county parklet regulations, we hired an architect to help us come up with a simple design to frame the parklet in wood, bring it level to the street and provide some platforms to address the slope. The plans introduce an ADA-compliant table in the parklet itself, and create a wood flooring that is safe and easy to clean. We’ve committed to the idea that although funded by us and certainly to our benefit, the parklet is public property and as such would bolster the community, and serve as a safe, beautiful, and functional outdoor gathering place for neighbors now and for years to come.

Members of our community have questioned how a permanent public parklet might affect our beloved Kensington Farmers’ Market, which operates in the parklet space on Sundays. Although the new parklet would have permanent walls, the space inside of it would still be available for use by the market vendors. We’ve proposed a few ideas, including moving the musicians inside the parklet, creating a designated eating area for many of the market’s food vendors, or, flipping the orientation of the market so that agricultural vendors are on the north side, and smaller-sized vendors that fit easier into the parklet are on the Benchmark side. By freeing up the sidewalk that the market currently blocks (alongside Benchmark), we could create an additional flow of traffic and address congestion issues that impact many customers and neighbors who shop the market on Sundays.

There are many creative solutions that will enable this permanent parklet to benefit everyone and accommodate the needs of all. We love the Kensington Farmers’ Market and their vendors, and want to see it thrive and grow. We also want to create a viable, long-term outdoor dining space for Kensington and neighborhood residents, who come to dine seven evenings a week, and for the broader community to have a place to sit safely and comfortably in Colusa Circle during the daytime hours.

Warmly,

Melissa & Peter Swanson,
Owners, Benchmark Pizzeria