Why Santa Monica's Main Street Restaurants Are Facing Hefty Fees

For many restaurants, the ability to offer outdoor dining in parklets was huge during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Santa Monica, more than 90 restaurants took advantage of a temporary, two-year fee-free parklet pilot program, reports the Santa Monica Mirror. It's a program that saw more than 80% public approval, and which many restaurants credit with helping them stay afloat, according to Eater Los Angeles.

Based on the success of the parklet pilot program, on June 29, 2022, the Santa Monica City Council decided to make the outdoor parklet program a permanent one. Under the new program, businesses with existing temporary parklets must apply for a provisional parklet permit by September 15, 2022, while businesses interested in a new parklet can apply at any time. In addition to a new application process, fees now also apply under the permanent parklet program. And depending on the size of the parklet, including the number of seats it holds, those fees could easily top five figures.

Applying for a permanent parklet can lead to hefty fees

Although the license fee to operate a parklet in the public right of way, which takes effect October 1, 2022, is only $2.12 per square foot per month, there are numerous one-time fees in connection with the application, including a public works plan check fee ($253.64), mobility division plan check fee ($247.02), city planning division plan check fee for those serving alcohol ($107.52), building and safety plan check fee for those using a canopy or electrical ($626.78), fire department inspection fee ($186.49), and a wastewater capital facility fee ($1,132.08 per seat for a fast food restaurant and $1,358.49 per seat for a full service restaurant).

It's this latter wastewater fee can hit restaurants particularly hard, as it's a per seat charge. However, the wastewater fee only applies to a net increase in new seats — if a restaurant moved a seat from indoors to a parklet, then it has already paid the wastewater fee when it first opened, and does not need to pay it again. Restaurants also have to pay annual inspection fees to the fire department and public works. Some Santa Monica restaurants on Main Street are still weighing the application costs with the benefits of having a parklet and have not yet applied, while others, like Crudo e Nudo and Pasjoli, have applied, but are reserving the decision whether to go ahead with the parklets once approved or to even move entirely, reports Eater Los Angeles.