Permanent Parklet Program

The Economic Development department is working to develop a permanent parklet program that will allow businesses to transition their temporary parklets into permanent, utilize a pre-approved design model, or design their own new parklet under the parklet program design guidelines and requirements.

Please find the most recent updates below:


At the November 15, 2022 City Council Meeting, Economic Development will present the Second Reading of Parklet Ordinance for Public on-Street Parking Spaces including the Adoption of the Parklet Ordinance establishing a permanent parklet program citywide; adoption of the Resolution establishing the Parklet Fee Schedule; adoption of the Parklet Guidelines, and Adoption of the Pre-approved Parklet Designs.

The text of the full resolution establishing the parklet fee schedule is available here.


Revenue Sources:

Application Fee:

Preapproved and Retrofitted Parklet: $500

General Fund

Custom Design Parklet: $500 + additional actual costs relating to processing the permit will be charged at the applicable city staff’s hourly rate set forth in the City’s Unified Master Fee Schedule.

General Fund

Economic Development Parklet Annual Inspection Fee: $250

General Fund

Annual Permit Fee:

Annual Permit Fee for Metered parking spaces: $2,000 per space

Fees charged in the downtown parking district are received by the Parking District Fund

Fees for parklets on the Wharf are received by the Wharf Fund

All other meter locations are received by the General Fund

Annual Permit Fee for Unmetered parking spaces: $5.88 per square foot

General Fund

Appeal Fee: $519

General Fund

Additional Costs: To be charged at the applicable city staff’s hourly rate set forth in the City’s Unified Master Fee Schedule.

General Fund

Permanent Parklet Program Updates:

Over the Summer, Economic Development (ED) has been working toward completion of the Permanent Parklet Program Ordinance, application and permit process, fees, and transition timeline. The following is a summary of the progress and next steps to formally create the program and begin the transition from temporary permits to permanent approvals:

In May, staff conducted an outreach meeting with businesses to provide an update on the design standards and pre-approved designs. We conducted a follow-up survey after the meeting and received 66 responses from businesses and the community which provided valuable feedback to help finalize the ordinance and preapproved designs. With those responses ED staff worked with the Public Works, Planning & Community Development, Fire, and Police Departments to seek clarification on what can be allowed in the permanent parklet guidelines. From our presentation on the proposed design standards, we heard from businesses about concerns regarding required setbacks on the ends of parking spaces, use of electric lighting, and heaters and concerns about weatherizing. We reviewed these items with the appropriate departments and will provide additional information about our determinations on this feedback in the frequently asked question section below. Following the 10/25/22 City Council meeting, staff met with the Council Subcommittee on Outdoor Dining to review the parklet ordinance, guidelines, and fees and the questions and responses from that discussion are capture below.


11/11/22 Outdoor Dining Subcommittee Questions:

Parklet Ordinance:

1. Why is the term of the parklet permit limited to one year? Is it possible to receive a longer term?

The parklet permit will be renewed automatically each year after successful reinspection and payment of the annual permit fees. The annual permit is the mechanism to collect the parklet annual fees and the permit will continue to renew each year the business wishes to continue and operates in good standing with the permit requirements.

2. The ordinance has strict restrictions on the removal requirements in the event of emergencies or utility access. How will businesses protect their investment under these requirements?

Santa Cruz Municipal Code Section 5.83.090 - City Authority and Removal of Parklet sets out the procedures for removal of parklets in the event a parklet goes unused for an extended period or an emergency occurs such as a water main break or other emergency in the street that impacts the parklet. The intent of this section is to clearly state that the parklets are operating on City property and public right-of-way which means the City always maintains authority over these spaces. In practice, this section is included to protect the City’s costs for instances where a parklet is abandoned or an emergency requires the immediate action of the City to resolve. If there was an emergency or planned road work that disrupts a business’ use of their parklet or forces removal, our intent is to support businesses in being able to retain the use of these spaces and their investment.

Parklet Guidelines:

1. What needs to be in place on the parklet to satisfy the requirement that: “Parklets shall be closed or gated when not in use”?

The parklet needs to be clearly closed to public access meaning no one should be allowed into the parklet area after-hours which shall be demonstrated in the following ways:

  • Businesses must have a “notice of private property”/“no trespassing” sign no greater than one square foot in area
  • All movable furniture shall be locked in place or removed from the public right-of-way during non-operating hours
  • OPTIONAL - A sliding gate can be installed to fully close access to the parklet after-hours or a simple rope and station can be strung in the parklet area entrance signifying the area is closed

2. What rights to access and control of the public right-of-way do businesses have between the sidewalk and parklet dining areas?

The parklet permit gives a business owner exclusive use of their parklet area to be operated as an extension of the business for outdoor dining. The sidewalk must always remain accessible for pedestrian travel. Businesses may only operate sidewalk dining through a café license agreement and must operate within their licensed area, ensuring that pedestrian access on the sidewalk between their sidewalk dining area and the parklet remains unobstructed at all times. Businesses can enforce their rights to refuse service within their dining areas and any trespassing or nuisance behavior should be reported to the Police Department if necessary.

3. Would live entertainment be allowed for special events in the parklet area?

Yes, live entertainment could be allowed through a special event permit in parklet areas. Live entertainment is not permitted as part of the issued parklet permit.

4. What design and furnishing options do businesses have to weatherize their parklets?

The parklet guidelines allow for the use of solar or battery powered lighting, propane heaters, umbrellas, shade sails, and transparent wind screens. No overhead fixed or solid roofs are allowed.

The support posts to hang string lights, shade sails, and wind screens must not exceed 10 feet in height. Wind screens made of a transparent material like plexiglass can be attached above the perimeter walls but must not exceed 6 feet in height from the floor of the platform. Heaters are allowed but must be placed 5 feet from all flammable materials. No electrical cords can be used in the parklet area or crossing over the sidewalk. Lighting must be solar or battery powered and hung only within the parklet area. Lights cannot be hung on any adjacent sign posts, trees, or buildings.

The businesses participating in the subcommittee provided feedback that a wind screen would be desirable in the pre-approved designs and staff is working with the designers to add this component as an optional feature in the plans.

5. What is required for screening the platform between the road and top of the parklet floor if not using a concrete base?

If a platform is constructed of something other than concrete, the base needs to have a solid perimeter to seal the area between the floor and street from access by rodents or the collection of debris while still maintaining the required 12” wide and 6” high storm drain clearance adjacent to the curb. The perimeter must be of a sturdy solid material such as steel or a narrow hole mesh material that is small enough to prevent a rodent from accessing beneath the platform. Additionally, access doors should be built into the floor to enable regular cleaning of any spills, debris, or rodent activity that may still collect under the platform.

May 2022 Questions:

1. When will businesses be able to apply for a permanent parklet permit and what is the permit process?

The parklet ordinance must be approved by City Council before applications can be accepted for the permanent program. The following is the anticipated timeline for ordinance approval and applications to begin:

9/22/22: Downtown Commission Presentation & Request for Recommendation to Council to approve the ordinance

10/17/22: Transportation & Public Works Commission Presentation & Request for Recommendation to Council to approve the ordinance

10/25/22: City Council Presentation and First Reading of Parklet Ordinance for adoption

11/15/22: City Council Second Reading of Parklet Ordinance for final adoption if approved 10/25

The ordinance goes into effect 30 days after final adoption and staff anticipates opening the application period soon after the ordinance takes effect. All eligible businesses that want to operate a permanent parklet will be required to apply for a permanent parklet permit under the new program. Businesses operating existing temporary parklets will be permitted to keep their temporary outdoor dining in place while their permits are under review and they prepare for construction or retrofit. Temporary parklet operators who do not apply by March 31, 2023 will not be granted priority review and may not be able to complete their construction and final approval by the October 31, 2023 expiration date. After the October 31, 2023 deadline any remaining temporary parklets will need to be removed and only permanent parklets will be approved moving forward.

The permitting process will be a staff level review through the Economic Development Department with review by the Public Works and Fire Department. Businesses will submit an application with the following information:

  • Applicant contact information
  • Property owner authorization to apply
  • Neighbor authorization if parklet encroaches on neighboring frontage
  • Parklet operational information (hours of operation and agreement with operating requirements)
  • Parklet Construction details (# of spaces, type of spaces, design options, site plan, and furnishings)
  • Alcohol service authorization
  • Insurance requirements

2. Do I still need to apply for a permit if I have already built a parklet and I want to keep it?

All parklets constructed under the temporary outdoor expansion program will need to be permitted under the permanent program. Businesses will be required to submit an application to receive permanent approval for their parklet to ensure it meets all of the requirements of the new ordinance. The City will provide a diagnostic report of existing parklets if businesses would like to transition what they have built under the temporary program. Staff will visit and assess your existing outdoor dining setup to determine what adjustments are required for you to come into compliance under the new program and will provide a written report to guide your application for permanent approval.

3. Why would I be required to make changes to my temporary parklet I built?

The temporary parklets have been regulated with the expectation that they would not be permanent structures which resulted in some temporary exceptions from building, fire, and public works regulations. The permanent program will stay consistent with many of the requirements from the temporary program but provides some changes to strengthen the accessibility and safety of the parklets that are allowed as a long-term permitted use.

In allowing parklets on a more permanent basis, the ordinance and parklet guidelines require that these standards be in place and some examples of these changes include requirements for the number of parking spaces to be used, setbacks within the parking spaces, removal of temporary membrane structures (tents and canopies), vector control measures, and installation of permanent safety barriers rather than the water filled barriers provided by the City.

4. Will I be able to construct a roof or canopy over my parklet?

The City will not allow any fixed or hard roofs on permanent parklets and will not allow the continued use of tents and canopies under the new ordinance. The use of tents and canopies has been a very relaxed measure to allow for all-weather dining stemming from the indoor dining restrictions and capacity limits. Under the permanent program these will not be allowed due to fire safety requirements and the need to operate these spaces as true permanent outdoor dining. The construction of hard roofs made of wood, metal, or plastic sheeting is also not allowed due to the impact to visibility of neighboring businesses, traffic signs, and the significant engineering review required to safely attach these roofs to the parklet platform.

The City will approve the use of umbrellas and shade sails to provide sun and light rain protection as well as properly placed and approved heaters for warmth. Businesses may also install transparent wind barriers above the perimeter walls at maximum height of 6 feet from the floor of the platform to help reduce wind impacts in the parklet area but the top of the parklet must remain open except for umbrellas and shade sails.

5. Can businesses use electric lighting and heaters in parklets without additional permitting?

Businesses requested the ability to easily implement electric lighting and heaters in the parklets to provide consistent lighting and more efficient heating. However, because the power is coming from a building into the public right of way and crossing over pedestrian pathways, staff has determined we cannot permit any electrical fixtures or equipment to be used in the parklets.

We also reviewed the potential to use portable battery-operated generators to power the electric lighting and heating but these are temporary devices not approved for long term permanent use under the Fire code. Solar or battery powered lighting and propane heaters with proper placement are the only recommended and approved lighting and heating options.

6. Am I required to use one of the City’s pre-approved designs for my parklet or can I construct my own custom design?

Businesses do not have to use one of the City’s pre-approved designs. Businesses may choose one of the e following three design options for construction of their parklets:

1. Modify an existing temporary parklet to meet the permanent parklet guidelines

2. Build a custom parklet design meeting the permanent parklet guidelines

3. Use one of the City’s pre-approved designs

The City prepared pre-approved options based on early feedback from businesses that this would be a helpful resource for them. The benefit of the City’s designs is that the design work and construction drawings have already been completed which could save time and money. The business would be able to take the pre-approved plans and place them in a site plan specific to their location. All custom designs will need to have plans drafted by a licensed design professional showing a site plan and construction drawings of how the parklet will be installed and will require additional permit fees for the hourly review time provided by public works, fire, and building to review the plans.

7. Is the City requiring businesses to only use certain colors and materials for parklets?

No, businesses are free to use any colors they choose and the only limitation on materials is that they must be durable and easy to clean and maintain. The overwhelming feedback from our survey was that businesses and the community did not want to see limitations on the customization of the parklet aesthetics and we respect that desire. Our review will be focused on public safety and durability of the parklets, not colors and design aesthetics.

8. Why is the City requiring 4-foot setbacks on the parklet ends? I have had use of the full parking space during the temporary program without issue.

We have not required setbacks due to the temporary nature of the current program but with the construction of the permanent parklets these will be fixed platforms and Public Works traffic engineering has analyzed the maneuvering space required for cars to safely enter and exit parking spaces around parklets and determined that the 4-foot requirement must remain. Most other cities have a similar requirement of 3- to 4-feet buffer at the end of parking spaces to provide this protection for both the cars and the parklet structure itself. We understand this does reduce the square footage available for seating, but it must be in place for parklets located between parking spaces.

9. How does this process compare to the pre-pandemic parklet program?

We have made several changes from the pre-pandemic parklet program to expand access to parklets, reduce the permit review process, and expand and more clearly define the design standards and parklet guidelines for businesses.

Prior to 2020, parklets were only allowed on the side streets in downtown. Under the new program, we are expanding this program to be available citywide on streets 25 mph or less. Regarding the permitting process, the pre-pandemic permitting process went through the Planning & Community Development Department and required a public hearing process which typically takes a minimum of 3 months. Below is chart comparing the process and cost associated with the prior program and the proposed new program:

Permits & Fees

Pre-Pandemic Parklet Program

Citywide Permanent Parklet Program


Design Permit - $1,811

Temporary Encroachment Permit

Parklet Permit (Staff Review) – $500 (+ hourly review fees for custom designs)

Annual Fees

Parking revenue replacement - $1,250 per space

$2,500 for two spaces

Parking Deficiency Fee - $425/space annually

$850 for 2 spaces

License fee - $0.49/SF monthly - $2,069.76 for two spaces

Total For Two Spaces: $5,419.76

Metered Spaces:

Parking Meter Revenue Replacement: $2,000/space

Total for 2 spaces: $4,000

Unmetered spaces:

License fee - $0.49/SF monthly - $2,069.76 for 352 SF (equivalent of two spaces)

10. Is the City providing any financial assistance to help businesses pay for their permanent parklets?

Yes, the City is proposing waivers of application fees for the initial roll out of the program for eligible businesses.

We are also developing a partially forgivable loan that would provide up to $50,000 with $25,000 forgiven over five years. The interest rate is currently estimated to be set at 3.75%. Due to the estimated cost of the parklets, State prevailing wage requirements will need to be followed which can increase the cost of some labor charges.

The City has also revised the pre-approved designs to reduce the cost of construction from $50,000 to $75,000 to a new cost estimate of roughly $14,000 for basic furnishings to $20,000 for optional furnishings and customization.

October 25, 2022 City Council Meeting:

Economic Development presented three items related to the transition from temporary outdoor dining programs to permanent programs at the City Council meeting held October 25, 2022. You can watch the recording of the City Council meeting here (the Outdoor Dining Items begin at timestamp 2:20:08).

City Council voted to extend the temporary outdoor dining permits for all businesses beyond the December 31, 2022 expiration date as follows:

  1. Extended the temporary period for commercial use in the public right-of-way, currently set to expire the end December 2022 through October 31, 2023
  2. Extended the temporary period for commercial use on private property from the end of this December through March 31, 2024; and
  3. Extended the expiration for the partial closure of Cathcart Street to March 31, 2023 and directed staff to work with business and property owners to assess design to accommodate public safety and two-way traffic on Cathcart.

The temporary permit extension was discussed in Item #19: Permanent Outdoor Dining Program Update: First Reading of an Ordinance Amending Uncodified Ordinance 2020-27 Extending Temporary Use of Certain Adjacent Public Street and Outdoor Areas for Eligible Businesses (ED)

Item #17: Permanent Outdoor Dining Program Update: First Reading of Parklet Ordinance for Public On-Street Parking Spaces (ED) - this item introduced the Parklet Ordinance which will be the permanent parklet policy for outdoor dining in public on-street parking spaces. The City Council approved the first reading of the ordinance and directed staff to develop a subcommittee to work with staff going forward to further refine the parklet guidelines, fees and program details and bring the ordinance and these items back for final adoption by the City Council.

Item #18: Permanent Outdoor Dining Program Update: Private Property Permitting (ED) - this item provided an overview of the permitting challenges under the City’s existing policies for outdoor dining on private property spaces and proposed a new permit process be developed to streamline this approval process. The City Council directed staff to work to develop a new permit process for private property outdoor dining to be presented to the City Council for consideration in early 2023. Staff will convene outreach with private property outdoor dining temporary permit holders to seek input and feedback on business needs as we develop the permit process.

May 4, 2022 Business Outreach Meeting

Economic Development provided an update on the progress to develop the draft parklet design guidelines and pre-approved design models. A presentation was shared at a public outreach meeting on May 4th and the community is invited to provide their feedback and comments through a follow up survey.

Below is a video of the presentation (re-recorded due to an error in recording live) and a second video of the comment portion of the meeting. We have also prepared a frequently asked question section to highlight the feedback we received in the meeting and clarify some of the information provided. A survey was open to business owners and the general community and received 66 responses.

Click here to view the presentation as a PDF document.

A complete document with the draft design guidelines will be available for additional comments following this initial survey and incorporation of the feedback received.

3/14/22 - Permanent Parklet Program Pre-Approved Design Models and Design Guidelines In Development

The Economic Development Department has been working with Dillon Design Associates to develop two pre-approved parklet design models that will streamline the approval process for businesses to transition to a permanent parklet structure. The work on these models is informing the updates to the City's parklet ordinance that will be needed to make this a permanent citywide program.

Additional work is underway to develop the permit process, fee structure, and financial assistance available to assist businesses in the transition to the permanent parklet program.

08/24/2021 - City Council Extends Temporary Program to December 31, 2022

On Tuesday, August 24, Economic Development updated the City Council on the temporary outdoor dining program and recommended that the City Council approve an additional year extension to the temporary program for all participating businesses.

Specifically, the City Council approved the following main recommendations:

The City Council unanimously voted to proceed with the following next steps:

1. Directed staff to bring back on or before the second meeting in October a revised temporary outdoor expansion program emergency ordinance that extends the temporary period for outdoor seating in public and private spaces, currently set to expire at the end of this December through December 31, 2022.

2. Directed staff to work with businesses operating these spaces to make any necessary changes needed to address maintenance issues and help aid transition to permanent programs prior to the emergency ordinance expiration.

Our recommendation to extend the temporary program for an additional year is intended to allow all businesses, whether their outdoor expansion areas are public or private, to continue permitted operations while they pursue the permanent option over the year ahead.

You can watch the full presentation and City Council approved recommendations regarding the outdoor dining program (item #29) here.

Want to learn more:

For additional questions about the program please contact Rebecca Unitt, Economic Development Manager.