In an attempt to improve the Downtown Ventura aesthetic and make it more pedestrian friendly, the city is considering the urban design concept of “parklets.”

Think of a parklet as an extended platform of sidewalk into the parking area of a street. The area would replace car parking and be used for additional dining or seating areas for patrons, as well as additional landscape opportunities.

“It creates an opportunity for businesses to create seating areas, as many don’t lend themselves to outdoor space,” said Community Development Director Jeff Lambert.

The Downtown Ventura Organization (DVO) and the Downtown Parking Advisory Committee have endorsed the idea of a pilot program that would allow up to four parklets implemented in the Downtown area within the next six to nine months, pending Design Review Committee and City Council approval, Lambert said. There would be an RFP (request for proposal) to apply for the pilot parklet program, and parklet construction would be privately funded by the businesses that get approval, Lambert said.

“There has been interest in how to do more outdoor dining. We’re in a beautiful unique setting that sets us apart,” said Kevin Clerici, DVO/DVP executive director. “Over the past few years, you’ve seen more places like Anacapa (Brewing Company) and Sicily (Pizzareia Trattoria) incorporate outdoor dining to initial success.”

Modeled after San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks program, cities in Southern California, such as Los Angeles and Long Beach, began implementing parklets last year. After city fees and construction, the cost of a parklet in those cities can reach up to more than $20,000, which business owners have said eventually pays for itself.

Ballpark costs have not been determined for Ventura, but Lambert said the city would have to figure out a way, perhaps by an annual fee, to charge for lost parking meter fees.

The Santa Barbara-based Van Atta Associates, Inc. was hired by the city to develop parklet design concepts and guidelines for downtown businesses. The parklets for restaurants with a North/South street orientation would be full-service and extend to the curbside. Pedestrians would walk around the parklet on a recreated sidewalk. Parklets on an East/ West orientation, such as Main Street, would be outdoor dining separated by a sidewalk, as pedestrians would still have a direct path of travel.

Lambert said places like Lure, Nature’s Grill and Palermos could benefit from the addition of a parklet.

The parklets would take away a few parking spaces in front of the businesses approved for the program. With downtown parking already a contentious issue, the parklet construction may raise a few eyebrows, but Clerici thinks it will only add value to downtown.

“There are more than 3,000 parking spaces downtown, and eliminating a few won’t affect the supply and they (parklets) may attract more people,” said Clerici.

The pilot program, Lambert said, would determine if the parklets are compatible with the downtown experience. If so, it would become a formal program and possibly extend to businesses elsewhere in the city.