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Parklets Come Up Again: City Wants to Hear Concerns

Long Beach Traffic Engineer to attend parking commission meeting to "learn from the commission any concerns regarding 'parklets' ... specific to the Belmont Shore business district."

The controversial 'parklets' are again up for discussion before the Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Area Commission, this time at 8 a.m. Thursday, when the City of Long Beach Traffic Engineer is appearing to "learn any concerns."

It remains unclear why the use of public street parking for restaurant dining has been reintroduced before the advisory commission. It is not clear from the agenda who is proposing or pursuing the idea; the public parking is within the coastal zone, and there has been no discussion of where customers and residents would park rather than in parking spaces that would effectively be privatized.

The agenda reads as if the City of Long Beach is exploring the possibility, but the meeting has received no publicity.

City of Long Beach Traffic Engineer Dave Roseman was not immediately reachable when Patch called at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday for details about parklets in Belmont Shore. 

Terry Enderson, vice president of the Belmont Shore Residents Association, strongly opposes the idea and stated his reasons in a Patch piece earlier this year:

“Parklets on 2nd Street would eliminate existing parking spaces and would ignore existing parking requirements for businesses,” Enderson said. “Each parklet would possibly add 20 seats. Where are these additional patrons to park in this parking impacted neighborhood?”

Originally designed to add landscaping and greenery to the streets of San Francisco--where streets and public rights-of-ways comprise more area than public parks--the “Pavement to Parks” program has already been adopted in Long Beach and altered to increase restaurant seating, making it the first Southern California city to do so.

That location on Fourth Street’s Retro Row at Lola’s Mexican Cuisine and in the East Village at Berlin by Portfolio, where the parklets are expected to provide increased business, are not parking-impacted like Belmont Shore. On Second Street, about 250 businesses are crammed snugly into a thoroughfare and the 15 side streets that intersect it.

While it’s unclear how enthusiastic Second Street business owners are about removing any of the already scarce parking, not all are opposed to the idea.

Earlier this year, at a meeting of the Belmont Shore Business Association, Demetrios “Jimmy” Loizidesone, one of the owners of George’s Greek Cafe  located at 5316 E. Second St., expressed interest in installing a parklet, sparking a "heated debate," according to the Gazettes.com.

This month's parking commission meeting will be held at 8 a.m. Thursday at the Bay Shore Library, 195 Bay Shore Avenue.

The parking commission's role is to "[recommend] to the Mayor and City Council solutions to parking problems in Belmont Shore and the best utilization of funds obtained from the parking meters in Belmont Shore," according to the Commission's web pages, quoted in a previous Patch article How the Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Commission Works.  

On the commission's agenda for Thursday, it reads as follows:  

RECOMMENDATION: Recommendation to receive and file a discussion with City of Long
Beach Public Works Department staff regarding “parklets”.

DISCUSSION

On November 1, 2011 the City Council approved a request by Lola’s Mexican Cuisine restaurant
(2030 E. Fourth Street) for a permit to construct a “parklet” for the purpose of providing additional
outdoor dining space. A “parklet” is the temporary use of a curbside parking space for outdoor
landscape and seating. This is done by constructing a raised platform in the parking space at the
same elevation as the adjoining sidewalk, thereby essentially extending the sidewalk area into
the street. The City of San Francisco has been permitting these uses for sometime, and Lola’s
“parklet” was completed on January 20, 2012, making it the first “parklet” in Southern California.
Subsequent to the “parklet” constructed at Lola’s, another one has been installed at Berlin by
Portfolio, located at 420 E. Fourth Street. A third “parklet” location has been installed at the
restaurant Number Nine, which is located at 2118 E. Fourth Street.

In attendance at the November 15, 2012 BSPBIAAC meeting will be the City of Long Beach
Traffic Engineer to discuss City policy regarding “parklets”. The City of Long Beach would
respectfully appreciate learning from the commission any concerns regarding “parklets” that
would be specific to the Belmont Shore business district.

RECOMMENDATION
Approve recommendation.

Renita Aguilar November 16, 2012 at 03:00 PM
What is common in restaurants is for tenants to pay a fixed rent. However, they usually also pay a percentage of sales if sales exceed a certain threshold. It is commonly known to restaurants/bars as "percent rent". I cannot possibly imagine that there is no percent rent with George's. Mr. Lorbeer, thank you for recusing yourself from the vote, and furthermore thanks so much for coming on this forum and providing a counterpoint. Is there percent rent at George's?
William Lorbeer November 16, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Ms. Aguilar, Thank you very much for your acknowledgement of my participation. I rarely engage in this type of dialog, as petty jealousies tend to make successful people targets of the crazy conspiracy theory ideologues who fill this type of forum with their ridiculous and often misleading comments. Regarding George's lease, the lease contains a confidentiality clause - I should probably not discuss any specifics in a public forum like this. However, a few facts might clear up some misstatements and help everyone understand who is "stirring the pot." While it is common to have a % rent clause in restaurant leases, there are no % rent clauses in either the George's or Taco Surf leases. Furthermore, if your assumption is the landlord will make extra money because of a % rent clause - be careful as that may not necessarily be the case (though certainly the intent). Percentage rent clauses are generally tied to the gross sales of a business and % rents for restaurants typically range from 5% to 10% of gross sales - which is considered a reasonable occupancy cost for a restaurant. Percentage rents are typically paid on a less frequent basis and the monthly base rent a tenant pays is generally deducted from the % of gross sales - the % rent payment is the difference between the base rent and the % amount. If the % rent amount is not more than the base rent, then no % rent payment is due. Several prominent restaurant in BS are in this situation and do not pay % rent.
William Lorbeer November 16, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Regarding Mr. Ruehle's comments and questions. George's is in the 7th year of an 10 year initial term (3 years remaining). However, they have two options for 10 more years (total term of 20 years). Because I think Jimmy Loizides is one of the best restaurant operators I've ever met, when his lease finally expires I certainly hope he will want to extend it. However, I haven't the foggiest idea where rents in Belmont Shore will be 13 years from now and have no intention of trying to guess. Nevertheless, if I have the opportunity to extend George's lease further, I have little doubt that Jimmy and I will reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. But your real point is Belmont Shore landlords (and maybe myself in particular) are greedy and charge to much rent. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Average commercial rents in Belmont Shore are considerable less than rents for similar type properties in other areas of So. Cal. Commercial rents in Belmont Shore range between $2.50 and $4.00 per square foot. A number of our tenants' rent is at the lower end of this range. Similar properties in downtown LA, Santa Monica, Pasadena, Westwood, Burbank, Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, and similar areas can (and do) rent from $6.00 to $12.00 per square foot. Commercial rents in the Shore are generally considered a bargain, but don't take my word. Call a broker with knowledge of the market or try one of the industry websites (e.g., Loopnet, CoStar, etc.).
William Lorbeer November 16, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Regarding Mr. Pearson's comment. I'm sorry if you were confused by my explanation. The bottom line, there was no conflict of interest as Mr. Ruehle claimed and therefore no reason to recuse. However, as Chair of the PC, I do try to take a neutral position on most issues, create or encourage balanced dialog, and generally do not vote on any matters. My vote is typically recorded with the majority (many of our matters are unanimously decided), but I typically do not announce my vote. Check out the meeting audio tapes - available on the City's website. However, my vote is sometimes required - break tie votes, etc.
Jacqui Viale November 17, 2012 at 12:17 AM
I was not aware of the meeting agenda until reported here on Patch. Just glad reason prevailed.
Renita Aguilar November 17, 2012 at 07:32 AM
Thank you for responding to my question Mr. Lorbeer.
Mike Ruehle November 17, 2012 at 08:03 AM
For people with little understanding of the Parking Commission's history, it was Bill Lorbeer who changed the monthly parking commission meetings in the following ways upon become Chairman: 1. Monthly Parking Commission meeting agendas were created the day before the meeting and were not made available to the public. Copies of the agendas were ONLY handed out to the Commissioners and not the public in attendance at those meetings. 2. Action items not included on the agenda were voted upon at Parking Commission meetings. Essentually, any wild idea could be approved by the Parking Commission without the public being made aware. 3. The public was NOT allowed to comment upon Parking Commission actions, whether on the agenda or not. Questions posed to the Parking Commissioners before the meeting about agenda items were met with silence. Not until I went before City Council numerous times and filed a complaint with the Los Angeles District Attorney's Public Integrity Division describing the Parking Commission's violation of the Brown act, did anything resembling a "balanced dialog" occurred at Parking Commission meetings chaired by Bill Lorbeer or Kurt Schneiter. Bill Lorbeer's Parking Commission was ordered by city officials to change how they conducted the PEOPLE'S business. The Parking Commission NOW must post their agendas beforehand, audio tape their meetings, only vote on agenda items and allow the public to speak to each voted upon agend item.
John B. Greet November 17, 2012 at 04:36 PM
So if I understand your comment, Ruehle, you are essentially saying that you believe the Parking Commission is currently running its meetings as required by law. If you helped make that happen I think you are to be commended, but why continue to complain about past meeting practices that are just that...in the past? Why not participate and comment in a more constructive, respectful, and forward-thinking manner? I understand that you believe that you tried the respectful and constructive approach in the past but that you feel it did not work. Understood. Has your adopting a less constructive or respectful approach worked any better? Hasn't it really just alienated many stakeholders whose co-operation are needed to affect positive change?
Mike Ruehle November 17, 2012 at 08:56 PM
Having known and observed Lorbeer and Schneiter for years, I have considerable evidence which disputes THEIR portrayal of themselves and I think people should be aware of Lorbeer's and Schnieter's past self-interest utilization of their Parking Commission positions. This is certainly no different than pointing out how any other politicians past decisions may NOT be indicative of their stated positions. Nor is it different than your frequent written discriptions of Lowenthal's or other politician's past actions that you felt were destroying California and how those actions were contrary to their stated positions. Furthermore, the changes to allows the public to be involved in Parking Commission decisions was fought tooth and nail for years by the Lorbeer and Schnieter controlled parking commission. The changes were only FORCED upon Lorbeer and Schneiter by the city because of the embarrassment suffered by the city due to DeLong's, Lorbeer's and Schneiter's arrogance toward the public. Only after multiple public comments at city council meetings, several newspaper articles about Brown Act violations and multiple complaints filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission and the Los Angeles County DA's office did the city force the Parking Commission to comply with legal requirements. Feel free to blow smoke up someone's butt if you want Greet. That's entirely your choice. Meanwhile, I choose to call it like I see and have experience it.
John B. Greet November 17, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Ok, Ruehle. I gave it a shot at trying to appeal to you to be civil. You're all grown up and can choose to continue to be as rude and insulting as you like. I don't think you're going to find that such an approach is going to get you any further than you claim you were able to get otherwise. Good luck in any case.
William Lorbeer November 17, 2012 at 11:28 PM
It is amazing how much CRAP Ruehle spews. For years (long before my tenure), the PCs agendas have been posted and made available to the public at least 72 hours before the meeting for years as required by law. In fact, the agendas are typically posted the week before the meeting and have been since before my time on the PC. Today, the agendas and meeting materials are made available on line and anyone can obtain copies. Check out the City's website. The PC has never voted on items not on or related to items noticed on their agendas. The minutes of our meeting document this and they are available on the website. While the meeting formats of all City commissions have been changed to enable more public comment, public comment has always been allowed at PC meetings. Again, check out the past agendas and minutes on the website. Or call the City Clerk and ask.
William Lorbeer November 18, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Sorry for the typos. My fingers are a little big for my phone.
Mike Ruehle November 18, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Lorbeer, do you really want to go there and have me prove to everyone how much CRAP you are full of? I've still got all of the documentation. I've still got all of the links, emails and agendas from years ago. Lorbeer, I suggest you quietly slink away while its still possible some wayward soul may believe you have a smidgeon of integrity. But if not, I will be more than happy to take the time to republish the evidence contrary to your big finger claims. It's up to you.
John B. Greet November 18, 2012 at 01:14 AM
Mr. Lorbeer, thanks for your service on the Parking Commission. Can you tell me, if you know, how many of the seven current Commission members are actually residents of the Belmont Shore community?
PeninsulaResident November 18, 2012 at 01:17 AM
Given an opportunity to believe Lorbeer Jr (or Sr), Schneider, Greet or Mike Ruehle I will go with Ruehle any time. In my opinion he is doing the peoples business and the rest are in the self-interest business. Mr. Lorbeer how much of you being one of the "successful people" is a result of being a child of your father? Long Beach needs more Mike Ruehle's.
PeninsulaResident November 18, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Mr. Greet I thought you were leaving?
John B. Greet November 18, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Hi Pen, I am indeed, but, much like Ruehle who already HAS left the area in question, I still have an interest in seeing things worked out. In my view this petty bickering has been going on far too long and I think one way to get a handle on it would be to re-configure the Parking Commission in the way that I have suggested. I sincerely believe that a smaller Commission that has equal representation from Belmont Shore residents and businesses could really help get things back on a more constructive and productive footing. Do you disagree?
Shore Resident November 18, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Go ahead Ruehle, do it. I double dog dare you just as I did when you posted the crap (pun intended) about the Belmont Shore sewage spills and and you declined my request to post the "e-mails" you said you had the proved the BSRA supressed this information. I still hear nothing but silence from you. Go ahead, post the links and e-mails. Do it. I'm pleading with you. DO IT or shut up!!!!!!
Mike Ruehle November 18, 2012 at 05:06 AM
When did Greet EVER live in the area in question?
John B. Greet November 18, 2012 at 05:55 AM
Interesting question, Ruehle. Surely someone with your extensive research skills could find that information, yes? Of course I never said I *had* lived in the area in question. Then again, I never said I hadn't either. Must one live in an area to want the best for it and it's residents and businesses? I was born in this town, Ruehle. Were you? I've spent the better part of my life here, have you? My dad attended high school and college here. Did yours? I attended college here. Did you? I've raised my children here. Have you? I have fought and bled for this town in almost 30 years of protecting it's people and enforcing the laws here. Have you? So you go ahead and concern yourself with when I might have lived in the area in question, Ruehle. I'll stack my ties to and sacrifices for this entire city -and *every* community in it- against yours any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I have never once questioned your sincerity in wanting the best for Belmont Shore. How about extending to me the same courtesy?
Shore Resident November 19, 2012 at 05:10 AM
Gee, Mike... I'm still waiting for the plethora of e-mails and links that will enlighten all of us as to the rightousness of your postion. Also, we're still waiting for the e-mails that will convince all of us as to your belief that there is a consipiracy to conceal the raw sewage spills in Belmont Shore.......oh, wait...... that's all "crap?????" I thought so. Post it, or shut up.
Mike Ruehle November 19, 2012 at 08:45 AM
I can well imagine Schneiter and DeLong hysterically scrambling to contact Lorbeer to tell him to keep his mouth shut and "little big fingers" silent while trying to defend their past anti-resident behavior. I can imagine both telling Lorbeer to let sleeping dogs lie so everyone remains unaware or forgets their past actions. Lorbeer's silence while he again quietly slinks away speaks volumes.
William Lorbeer November 19, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Mr. Greet, Of the 7 commissioners - 3 are Belmont Heights residents, 1 is a Naples resident, 2 live in Belmont Shore, and 1 lives in Marina Pacifica. The Naples resident is termed out and being replaced by a Belmont Shore resident. Because many of the business and property owners live in the area, the membership of the commission typically includes several Belmont Shore residents. At only 7 members, it seem appropriately sized to me. And as I've commented previously, I think the balance of interests or stakeholders is also appropriate.
William Lorbeer November 20, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Ruehle can criticize and insult me all he wants, it is his MO but it doesn't change the facts. The PC's agendas have always been made available to the public (which is a function of the City Clerk's staff - not the commissioners), state law limits voting to noticed items (or motions reasonably related to noticed items), and the public has always had the right to participate and comment at commission meetings. However, more recent changes, in part as a result of Ruehle's complaints, caused changes to procedures on all City commissions to enable more public participation. BTW, I haven't heard from either Schneiter or DeLong - and really doubt that either one is interested. Regarding Pen's comments - I think I've adequately address the self-interest issue. Regarding the success issue - well I guess that's a matter of opinion. I've spent over 20 years working for our family partnership, and believe I've contributed plenty to its success. If you want to chalk it up to a "golden spoon," I'm sure there is noting I can say to change your mind. However, I will say, the experience has taught me to respect anyone who works in a family business - it certainly isn't easy.
John B. Greet November 20, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Thanks for the reply, Mr. Lorbeer. So it seems that there are currently two Parking Commissioners who are actually residents of Belmont Shore but that a pending replacement will make that a total of three. This still sounds as if the balance is weighted against Belmont Shore resident representation even though, as I mentioned, the majority of the Commissions funds are public funds and the majority of Commission activities and events directly impact public properties, facilities, and rights-of-way. I think part of the challenge and the source of a good deal of the contention has to do with the apparent perception that the Parking Commission is little more than a rubber stamp for Shore business interests. As I've also said, business interests are important, and they often complement public interests, but there are also obvious areas where the interests of these two stakeholders diverge. Weighted against residents -who must be reasonably seen to be more appropriate representatives of the public's interests, while business owner/managers must be reasonably seen to be more appropriate representatives of business interests- the Parking Commission, as currently configured, seems to promote the anti-resident perception I have noted. This is a City Commission. As such it should be entirely *balanced* in it's representation of both stakeholder groups or, if it is weighted at all, it should rightly be toward the public's interest, since it controls public funds.
William Lorbeer November 21, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Mr. Greet, Respectfully, I think your focus on only residency misses the mark. Like you, many of the Commissioners, have significant connections to the BS community and long histories here, and most have much more than just business interests here. For example, I was a Shore resident for 20 years (first 4 years on the PC) and I still own both residential and commercial property in the Shore. Mr. Schnieter, another of Ruehle's favorite targets, and Mr. Trossen both have commercial and residential property interests in the Shore. All three of us live in the surrounding community - Belmont Heights and Naples. Lisa Ramelow, Mr. Trossen's replacement, lives in BS with her family, owns a business in BS, and with her family also owns commercial and residential property in the Shore. While only two of the current commissioners may live in the Shore, a majority of them have lived in the Shore and currently own interests in residential properties here. While there may be a perception, significantly promoted by our good buddy Mike, that these commissioners are anti-resident - it just isn't true. However, your real concern seems to be the Commission's focus on business interests over residential interests. The PC's purpose is to focus on business interests - that's what it was formed to do. The PC's taxing and spending boundaries are essentially the boundaries of business district. We don't have the authority to spend any funds in residential neighborhood.
John B. Greet November 21, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Mr. Lorbeer, thank you very much for the comprehensive response. Parklets aside (because it seems that the overall consensus from both stakeholder groups seems to be against attempting them in Belmont Shore or, at the very least, anywhere along 2nd Street) I do understand why the Commission was formed. The phrase "business improvement" is included in the Commission's rather tortuous name, after all. It is not my intent to diminsh the motivations or commitments of the majority of Commission members. I simply seek to point out that where public funds and public properties are concerned, the public (as properly represented by residents) should have more input and representation on a City Commission. In my view, the fact that the streets, sidewalks and other hardscape and public facilities along 2nd Street exist within a "business district" does not make them any less owned by the *people* of Long Beach, not the *businesses* of Long Beach. Likewise the revenue generated from 2nd Street parking meters is not business revenue but public funds that the public (rather than businesses) should have more input concerning. The Commission should be equally balanced: An equal number of non-business owning/managing residents, with an equal number of business owner/managers plus a Chair who can qualify as both and which should have the unanimous approval of both stakeholder groups. Public properties + public revenues (should) = balanced public representation.
William Lorbeer November 29, 2012 at 06:14 AM
Mr. Greet, I'm sorry for my delayed response. I just found your last comment. I sincerely appreciate your respectful comments and logical thought process. In a different situation, and not knowing what I know, I might even agree with you. Respectfully, I have a different opinion and here is why: Sometime in late 60's or early 70's, the three major or larger public parking lots on the south side of 2nd Street where acquired and developed. A city commission, arguably the current commission's predecessor, with a roughly equal numbers of business and residential representatives was formed for this purpose. Sometime later, a majority of the businesses agree to create an assessment for their common benefit and the BSBA was formed. Several parking studies were completed and recommended development of additional parking facilities. To assist with funding the development of additional parking facilities, in the late 80's the commercial property owners in Belmont Shore agreed to a voluntary additional property tax (Mello-Roos property tax) under a proviso that the City would give local control over parking meter revenue - so funds from both sources (taxes and meters) could be used for parking improvements. A commission for each fund or source of funds - three or more separate commissions - was considered unworkable. It was decided that one commission could serve all of the business and public interests and effectively advise the City Council.
William Lorbeer November 29, 2012 at 06:46 AM
In 1989, the original parking commission was dissolved and the BSPBIAA formed. The PC was given responsibility for the parking facilities and the three funds: BSBA's budget, property taxes, and parking meter revenue. The PC's structure includes: 3 business owners, 3 commercial property owners, and 1 resident. Two of the 3 business owners must be directors of the BSBA. This structure gives the BSBA some representation, which is appropriate as the PC has oversight over their assessments and budget. It doesn't seem appropriate to give residents control over the BSBA's activities or funds. The structure also gives the commercial property owners representation, which is appropriate as they voluntarily contribute additional property taxes to the City/Commission. The original agreement between the property owners and the City - local control of the parking meter revenue in exchange for a voluntary property tax - also supports their representation. Moreover, the business owners and commercial property owners (not the residents) helped pay for the development of the original three larger lots through another assessment (roughly 1/2 of the total parking lot spaces). As such, not withstanding the original proviso, it seems fair that the business community have some control over the meter revenue which they helped create. For all of these reasons, I believe the current structure fairly represents those who have historically contributed to the business district's improvement.
William Lorbeer November 29, 2012 at 06:59 AM
Last, the residential community is also well represented. As I explained in prior comments, all of the current commissioners are area residents - living in Belmont Shore or surrounding neighborhoods. As I've also stated previously, a number of the current commissioners (at least three) that do not live in Belmont Shore own residential property in Belmont Shore (myself included) and therefore have interests similar to other residential property owners in Belmont Shore. So at least five (a significant majority) of the seven current commissioners either live in Belmont Shore or own residential property in Belmont Shore. Suggesting that these commissioners do not have similar interests to other residents and property owners in Belmont Shore seems very untenable to me.

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